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John Cale - Fear CD (album) cover


John Cale


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3.34 | 35 ratings

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3 stars John Cale's "Fear" is a fun and accessible chunk of art rock, with just enough twists and turns to keep it from seeming mainstream. Cale is best known as a founding member of the Velvet Underground and cause of that band's more avant-garde leanings. Before that he spent time with Lamonte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music and he even made an album with famed minimalist Terry Riley. Needless to say, his art music credentials are impressive indeed.

However, when it comes to writing pop songs, he is largely a mixed bag. On his solo debut, "Vintage Violence," he tended towards droning and melancholy ballads (a byproduct of his Welsh heritage, I suspect) and while some of these were enthralling, many were dull and lifeless. Well, he has certainly not escaped from this weakness on "Fear," but at least he has picked up the pace a little, and recruited some fine talent to help.

Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera lend their skills to the album, and their presence (particularly Eno's) is certainly felt. For example, the end of the opening cut "Fear is a Man's Best Friend" is a caterwauling free for all that sounds very much influenced by Eno's "Here Come The Warm Jets." It's an ending that transforms an otherwise radio friendly song into a bona fide piece of art rock, and it's one of the album's highlights. Cale is mainly known for his electric viola playing, but here he shows that he is no slouch on the bass guitar either.

Other standout tracks include "Gun." which is a slow, hard-rocking story song that never lets up, and the poppy-yet-eccentric "Barracuda," which never fails to bring a smile to my lips. Behind its simple two chord riff lies some truly weird mosquito-like keyboard playing. As expected there are some mournful ballads, and while "Buffalo Ballet" is pretty good, the others fall a bit flat, lacking the melodies or the lyrics necessary to pull off such somber fair. The album's low point is the dated sounding "The Man Who Couldn't Afford to Orgy." Besides the fact that Cale insists on pronouncing "orgy" with a hard "g," the backing vocals are horrendous.

Overall, this is a good album, but not one I can unreservedly recommend. All I can say is that if you are a fan of Cale or Eno or Manzanera, it will certainly be worth your time.

thellama73 | 3/5 |


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