Released in 2011, the Extra Playful EP, John Cale's first set of new material in six years, found the roguish ex-Velvet Underground legend revisiting some of the more idiosyncratic aspects of his early solo career, which should come as no surprise since he had spent the year prior performing his 1973 chamber pop masterpiece, Paris 1919, in its entirety. Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood, his first full-length outing since Black Acetate, continues in that same vein, mining the oddball, genre-be-damned approach that dominated his immediate post-Velvets output, while maintaining the austere, experimental art rock demeanor that informed much of his later work. Silly, savage, and willfully schizophrenic, Nookie Wood is at its best when its creator is channeling his more pastoral works, as is the case with the gorgeous "Living with You," his best love song since "I Keep a Close Watch," and the transcendental closer "Sandman (Flying Dutchman)." Much like David Bowie adopting jungle and techno on 1997's Earthling, Cale spends a great deal of the album attempting to integrate elements of electro-pop into his wheelhouse, even tapping the talents of Danger Mouse for the funky and paranoid opener "I Wanna Talk 2 U." In some cases, as in the propulsive "Scotland Yard," which blends the unhinged gait of 1974's "Gun" with the icy atmospherics of Tubeway Army's "Are 'Friends' Electric?," the effect feels brisk and authentic, lending a chrome, retro-'70s, Berlin-era swagger to the proceedings that pairs nicely with Cale's enigmatic lyrics and smoky baritone, but misadventures into the world of T-Pain-inspired Auto-Tune ("Mothra" and the otherwise Giorgio Moroder-esque "December Rains") tread a very thin line between satire and irrelevance.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger