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22 September 2010

John Cale - 'Fear' (Island)

Here's at least one detail to love about every track of Fear: 1. Manzanera's crunchy, slightly palm-muted guitar part during the first verse of 'Fear is a Man's Best Friend'. 2. The pause, the hesitation just before the vocals start in on 'Buffalo Ballet' (but really, everything about 'Buffalo Ballet' - Cale's greatest power ballad, and one that really captures the sense of openness and wonder about his adopted home). 3. The wow and flutter of 'Barracuda', which I guess means the way it wobbles despite the confident rhythmic motion. Maybe it's the static around the bass guitar or the carnivalesque keyboards (are they Eno or Cale?) but it makes this a fun track to play loud when DJing. 4. 'Emily's organ textures, which provide a churchlike, apostolic earnestness behind Cale's emo lyrics and Eno's sweeps of white noise, particularly during the second verse. 5. In 'Ship of Fools', Cale sings 'There was something in the air that made us kind of weary', but his voice trails off at the end, cause, well, he's weary right? But I would be too if I was sailing all around the Welsh coast with these dudes. 6. The monotony of 'Gun', which when it ascends to its chorus, feels like the haymaker after you've already been peppered with jabs. 7. 'The Man Who Couldn't Afford to Orgy', which was for some reason released as a single, has all manners of perversions, but Cale's hard-G pronunciation of 'orgy' is the biggest, outranking Judy Nylon's sultry breaths. 8. When the female backing singers (credited simply as 'Girls' on the sleeve) enter 'You Know More Than I Know'. They change the song -- no longer a reflective complement to 'Buffalo Ballet', it turns into something more exuberant, and tinged with gospel fringers. 9. Well, all the slide guitars, of course, on 'Momamma Scuba', though given the presence of Richard Thompson with Manzanera, I find this track rather disappointing. Overall, side two starts to drag, but this is the Island album I enjoy the most from Cale and the only one I've bothered to own over the years. It's a pretty fantastic 1-2-3 punch and 'Fear is a Man's Best Friend' should be at every karaoke bar on this planet.

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