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Velvet Underground Man Reminds Us He Hasn’t Gone Away
Olaf Tyaransen, 03 Oct 2011
“You can’t take it with you when you go,” sings John Cale on ‘Catastrofuk’, the first of five quite diverse tracks on this Extra Playful EP. At the ripe young age of 69, the veteran Welshman, and legendary co-founder of The Velvet Underground, sounds like he’s still got something to give. He also occasionally sounds a lot like an older, and pehaps slightly more sedate, Nick Cave.
Well, he does on the first two tracks at least. Both ‘Catastrofuk’ and ‘Whaddya Mean By That’ are unashamed pop songs, featuring distorted guitars, dreamy keyboards and some memorably simple vocal riffs. “You ask if you hurt me/ Well whaddya mean by that?” is hard to shake once you’ve heard it.
With its funky beats, infectious bass, and loops and samples, ‘Hey Ray’ is a lot more experimental. A live favourite for many years, it’s Cale’s comical take on the paranoid political conspiracy theories that abounded in the ‘60s: “1964, Castro’s up in Harlem/ 1965, they’re having a riot!”
As its title suggests, the trance-like ‘Pile A L’heure’ (‘Right On Time’) is sung in French, though serious vocal effects are used. It ends with the distinctly ‘70s sounding new wave pulse of ‘Perfection’. It’s less than perfect, but maybe that’s the point.
John Cale doesn’t have much to prove at this stage of his illustrious career, and here he sounds like he’s having some fun. There’s a full album due next year. On the basis of Extra Playful, one thing’s certain: it won’t be easy to categorise.