John Cale

Music For a New Society (Rhino 1982)

http://www.mediafire.com/?emqvixmwyby

This an album for days when you just feel unable to get out of bed and life has yanked your hair as a prelude to kneeing you in the balls. Music For a New Society is John Cale’s last great album before a parade of underwhelming efforts. Although his live album, Fragments of a Rainy Season, is one of his best, everything after this paled in comparison to the brilliance and creativity of his 70s works. Of all the members of the Velvet Underground, John Cale is the one who is responsible for the most challenging and interesting work after their slow, pathetic dissolution. To hell with Metal Machine Music, Cale’s Paris 1919, Vintage Violence, Church of Anthrax, Fear, Slow Dazzle, Academy in Peril, Helen of Troy and Music For a New Society are sometimes nasty and claustrophobic and sometimes lush and sentimental, but always worth your full attention. There is no excusing such dreck as Artificial Intelligence and Caribbean Sunset, but Cale’s decade of genius is enough to last me for an eternity.

Enough proselytising, let’s get back to the matter at hand. Music For a new Society is Cale’s most sparse and single-minded record as it is just Cale’s voice, piano, minimal percussion, eerie electronics and the occasional bagpipe solo. “I Keep a Close Watch on this Heart of Mine” is one of the most heartwrenching portraits of a man who has been burned too many times. He captures the essence of betrayal and its subsequent damning effects on the one who has been betrayed. It is a dark look at love and how it can harden the heart.

Never win and never lose
There’s nothing much to choose
Between the right and wrong
Nothing lost and nothing gained
Still things aren’t quite the same
Between you and me

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine

I still hear your voice at night
When I turn out the light
And try to settle down
But there’s nothing much I can do
Because I can’t live without you
Any way at all

I don’t know why this song haunts me so. I have a healthy, optimistic view of love and its potential to cast life in a new light, but we’ve all been to that desperate place described in this song.

An even more disturbing view of love, obsession and hard feeling is “If You Were Still Around.” It is a bit of a hateful ditty about what he would do to those who have done him wrong. There is a lot of violence in his intentions and probably much more lurking in the subtext of this one. Actually, it’s pretty much in plain view as Cale openly lobbies for some sort of psychic or emotional cannibalism.

If you were still around
I’d hold you
I’d hold you
I’d shake you by the knees
Blow hard in both ears
If you were still around

You could write like a panther
Whatever got into your veins
What kind of green blood
Swung you to your doom
To your doom

If you were still around
I’d tear unto your fear
Leave it hanging off you
In long streamers

Shreds of dread
If you were still around
I’d turn you facing the wind
Bend your spine on my knee
Chew the back of your head
Chew the back of your head
‘Til you opened your mouth
To this life

It starts off as a tender song about longing and regret, but builds into something ugly. In fact, it’s a pretty primal song and reveals a man who wants to punish a lover who revealed herself to be a traitor to his love and friendship. The rest of the album isn’t quite so morbid and grisly, but it is still pretty damn depressing. Music For a New Society may be one of my favorite albums, but it isn’t one that I dust off often because it’s so full of bad juju.

Holy Modal Rounders

Live in 1965 Bootleg

http://www.divshare.com/download/4864210-f46

I was privy to a conversation between two gentlemen discussing the best fishing holes in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Personally, my misspent youth was spent at Penn Treaty Park catching Fishtown eels and bashing them against rocks for kicks. Before you groan, I now realize the evil nature of this activity, but the Delaware River most likely rendered them toxic waste. But I digress, they then began to discuss the pure joy to be found with a joint, a fishing pole and their favorite albums to listen to while fishing. The one gent argues for Agnostic Front which inspired the other to emphatically state that the Cro-Mags’ Age of Quarrel was the best album of all-time. Personally, New York hardcore is about as appealing as a hardy rash, but I do like some of it. What in the hell does this have to do with a Holy Modal Rounders’ bootleg? Well, nothing, but it got me thinking about albums that inspire such banter. If I had to pick one album that I’d rant about for hours, it would be the Holy Modal Rounders’ Have Moicy.

Since this bootleg is from 1965, this is a wholly different beast than the Michael Hurley infused edition that recorded the best country album this side of George Jones. However, Peter Stampfel leads the band at this point as they deliver a mix of comedy, pathos and psychedelic country that embodies all that was great about the 60s assimilation of country, blues and bluegrass. Much of it draws from their first two albums and it sort of reminds me of the Fugs at points, but is so much better than their sophomoric insanity. There’s even a version of “Indian War Whoop” on here and their utter joy and postivity bleeds into each song and results in an uplifting experience. I prefer Have Moicy by a mile, but this bootleg captures pure optimism in song.

Oh yeah, I saw the Fabulous Diamonds tonight. They were absolutely entrancing. The record doesn’t do them justice. Their recorded material reminds me of a droning Young Marble Giants, but they were a mix of Cluster, ESG and Mo Tucker in a live setting. Funky in a brain damaging sort of way. Pick up their album on Siltbreeze if you get a chance.