Monday, January 23, 2006

John Cale/Black Acetate/4.4

his work has always been so reliably eccentric and inventive that even his all-too-frequent misfires have held a certain peculiar fascination. Nevertheless, it comes as a disappointment to hear on Black Acetate how readily Cale has moved from the role of unsatisfied innovator to that of willing follower.

Local papers across the country are filling column inches with a story about today (January 23) as the worst Monday of the year. By a simple formula (1/8W + (D-d)3/8 x TQ / M x NA - QED, no?), Dr. Cliff Arnall at Cardiff University has calculated today as the year's emotional lowpoint. If 2006 had a biorhythm chart, this would be a profound trough.

Perhaps, this annual slump makes the ginormous number of new releases this week entirely necessary for us music addicts. Shaky and weak, we can shuffle into our local music emporium and immerse ourselves in new music. At the least, we'll have ample jewel case inserts to distract us from cold, precipitation and post-nasal drip over the next few days.

Today, PFM is filling up their column inches (or in a digital world, is it column pixels?) with their review of John Cale's Black Acetate - a record from back in early October. Yes, yes, we Tuningforkistas harp incessantly about timing; bear with me, I too feel the fat thumb of the season pressing down on my creativity and originality. If anything, I may be more sympathetic to Murphy and his colleagues today more than ever. Black Acetate takes a while to review - mostly, because it isn't especially good.

I mean, it's John Cale. The fact that he played on any of VU's albums makes him a colossus of Rock. And he's recently had a decent record with Hobo Sapien. So, I want to enjoy Black Acetate - but I do not. Track after track, I feel my finger twitching over the skip forward button, my brain seeking out some beam of music sunlight (or engulfing darkness). Instead, what I hear is a rainy parking lot - ordered, sprawling, damp and inanimate.

There are a couple of tracks on the record that I like - mostly for very bad reasons. "Perfect", which Murphy pans as being derivative and trite, is a forbidden pop pleasure for me. I also like hearing the word "pajamas" in a song lyric. I feel similarly about "Turn The Lights On". John Cale unabashedly rocks out on it and I have to admit that I approve. These tracks may seem undignified for someone of Cale's stature, but I have a soft spot for unabashed indulgence. Actually, unabashed indulgence is probably my own tertiary vocation. However, unabashed indulgence has been done better - in fact, I'll be expecting a modicum of it on Robert Pollard's new record.

So, Murphy's 4.4 seems like a fair rating. Could you rate the record a little higher? Sure, but I don't think John Cale would ask for that charity.