Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood
Double Six Records
There’s an acoustic guitar and a slightly breathy, (actually) nearly breathless voice and we’re off – it’s the new John Cale album and it’s – instantly – a reminder that Cale is more interesting than Lou Reed; has been since 1968, if not since 1966. And I’m saying that as a card-carrying fan of Reed, one of the (very) few who tried Lulu more than once (we all met for a BBQ; we didn’t need the big table).
Shifty Adventures is Cale’s first full-lengther in over half a decade, it seemed he was on a roll with 2003’s HoboSapiens and then 2005’s blackAcetate and then the touring cycle kicked in and Cale stopped recording. Last year’s EP: Extra Playful contained the embarrassing new song he debuted on his extensive world tour in support of Acetate but it did at least clear the decks for this project. Nookie is more blackAcetate and Walking On Locusts than it is anything approaching the brilliant work that Cale has turned in. But he keeps moving. Just enough. Keeps trying new things.
Here it seems he wanted to make a pop album; albeit one that’s been turned on its ear.
It’s a far better album than a 70 year old John Cale might have made. And if it’s not a patch on so many of the great albums in his catalogue then you can simply return to those. But I’ve been enjoying this just enough. There are plenty of things that bug me about it: the stupid title, the stupid title song, the annoying December Rains with Cale singing about Google, seemingly just to mention it to seem (almost) up with the play (and using AutoTune to boot).
But hey, there’s also the really lovely Mary – one of my favourites. And the closer, Sandman (Flying Dutchman) and another obvious album highlight is Vampire Cafe. These things keep me coming back to this. These songs remind me that Cale isn’t spent. Yet. And I like that.