John Cale

Walking on Locusts

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John Cale's first album of new songs in over a decade and his most accessible (nearly commercial!) album since Paris 1919, 1996's Walking On Locusts might take a couple of listens to sink in for those fans who prefer Cale's noisier work, but in its own low-key way, it's a satisfying listen. Indeed, the slick production actually works in the album's favor; much as they do on Steely Dan's later albums, the slick surfaces only barely hide the dry humor and mordant sarcasm of Cale's lyrics, as on the hyperactive "Crazy Egypt" and the tart "Indistinct Notion of Cool." Sometimes, as on the single "Dancing Undercover" and "Secret Corrida," the faux-Latin rhythms and arrangements overpower the songs a bit, but those are more than compensated for by the graceful beauty of "Set Me Free" and "Some Friends," a tender eulogy for Sterling Morrison, Cale's partner in the Velvet Underground, who had died the year before. (Velvets drummer Maureen Tucker guests on that track and two others.) Dave Soldier of the playfully experimental Soldier String Quartet contributes string arrangements to most of the songs, which furthers the comparisons to Paris 1919 and Cale's other early '70s work. Walking On Locusts is not up to the standards of that classic period, of course, but it's certainly worlds better than the albums that came out before Cale's decade-plus retirement from pop, the uninvolving Artificial Intelligence and the abysmal Caribbean Sunset.

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