Rhythm & Views

John Cale

In his long and storied career as an art rock icon, John Cale has been many things, but until now, never funky. But Cale and co-producer Nick Franglen dip into a sly, insistently funky undertow on several tracks on Cale's first CD in eight years, HoboSapiens, without losing any of the exactitude and subtle menace that have been his hallmark for decades.

Through his early days with the Velvet Underground, production credits on debut CDs by Patti Smith and the Stooges, collaborations with Brian Eno and others, and 16 solo albums, Cale has combined colossal talent and a prickly personality into a singular body of work. And while HoboSapiens is more evolutionary that revolutionary, it does moves Cale back into the front ranks of forward-looking pop music artists.

No one can mix intelligence and intensity quite like John Cale, and HoboSapiens is a moveable feast for brain and body alike. Under the watchful eyes of Cale and Franglen, the songs always do just exactly what they need to, never more or less. "Zen" kicks in martial, funky and eerie, calling on el Greco, Mondrian and Picasso, setting the stage for a tour of Cale's current interests and obsessions. "Lost Horizon" and "Caravan" are otherworldly and mesmerizing, fusing cello, samples, beats, ghost voices and even surf guitar. Elsewhere he name-checks Charlie Brown, Magritte, Chaucer, Waiting for Godot and references Eno's "Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy."

Cale's voice has only grown richer and more expressive over the years, and is strangely comforting--like a long-lost friend suddenly re-appearing. HoboSapiens is a sublime emanation from a Grand Master.

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