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John Cale - Paris 1919 CD (album) cover

PARIS 1919

John Cale


Prog Related

3.32 | 57 ratings

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4 stars First of all, it's great to see John Cale included in the Prog Archives. An astonishing figure, comparable to the likes of Brian Eno or Robert Wyatt, Cale and his work are notable for their constant innovation, moving in and out of familiar terrains but always leaving those terrains forever changed in his wake. In a vein all his own, Cale has merged popular forms with the spirit of the avant-garde.

"Paris, 1919" is a remarkable album and a deceptive one at that. In many ways, it's an easy album to start with if you haven't heard much of his solo material, since it doesn't feel as immediately transgressive or experimental as many of Cale's other works. In fact, this is meant, in many ways, to be his "pop" album, and there really are a number of catchy moments, starting right away with the opener, "Child's Christmas in Wales." Still, this song, with its nod to fellow south Walian, Dylan Thomas, along with "Macbeth" and "Graham Greene" point to the hyper-literary subcurrents that inform the album, and which indicate that something deeper is going on here. Lyrically, things get strange, dark and perturbing.

This is an extremely beautiful album, yet, by the end of the experience, there's something deeply unsettling about the quality of its beauty, as well. A song like "Hanky Panky Nohow" embodies this uneasy beauty well, as the strings emphasize a deep melancholy, reminding me at least of that same chilling use of strings that can be found on Big Star's truly brilliant "Third/Sister Lovers." This feeling carries over to songs like "The Endless Plain of Fortune" and the title track, for me one of the album's highlights.

Highly recommended as a great album, fully deserving of five stars in other contexts. In this context, however, "Paris, 1919" may not stand as one of the most progressive of albums, at least not on the surface. At first, it can feel like a pleasant bunch of nicely orchestrated pop songs. However, if you let the album live with you for awhile, its darker, subterranean elements come to dominate, and it will find a nice home in your dark heart.

questionsneverknown | 4/5 |


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