Although for many Lou Reed embodies the spirit of Velvet Underground, in the 40-something years since John Cale quit he has consistently made more interesting music. From venomous rock to affecting spoken word, Cale's never been predictable. Recently he enthusiastically embraced hip-hop beats, so it's no surprise that here he does his own drum programmes alongside playing piano, guitar and electric violas, and has Danger Mouse on the enticing opener I Wanna Talk 2 U.
While the taut songs here seem rather straight-ahead, the clattering programming and sonic swoops push them away from their origins as stuttering rock or piano-framed ballad. His daring spirit becomes increasingly evident in edgy and sometimes menacing production, as on Face to the Sky and the title track where rock guitars and hip-hop beats collide around his disconcerting and gravitas-filled vocals, and the strange voices behind the latter which wobbles on liquid beats and stabbing funk guitar. Later he toys with Auto-Tune (December Rains, where "soft porn rioting is now on-line" and the floor-shuddering Mothra), ethno-forgery (the distorted Vampire Cafe) and songs which almost sound in danger of being washed away by haunting effects.
Cale's a rare one (coded and political) and again punches out of whatever box you might have had him in.
Verdict: Strange notes from the more underground one
- TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz