Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Review: John Cale: Conflict & Catalysis

Various Artists – John Cale: Conflict & Catalysis, Productions & Arrangements 1966-2006 (Big Beat)
As production careers go, John Cale started very well. “Conflict & Catalysis” begins with his arrangement of the Velvet’s “Venus In Furs”, before moving swiftly on to The Stooges (“I Wanna Be Your Dog”), Patti Smith (“Gloria”), Nico (“Afraid”) and The Modern Lovers (“Pablo Picasso”). If he had hung up his knob-twiddlers hat then he’d have done enough to earn his place in the producer’s hall of fame – if such a thing exists. But a man’s got to make a living, so when Squeeze, Ventilator, Happy Mondays, et al come calling, you get on with it, and inevitably some things work better than others.

Fortunately there’s enough good material here to suggest Cale is interested in more than a payday. The variety of different genres he’s prepared to tackle is equally impressive, from grunge (The Jesus Lizard) to madrigals (Mediaeval Baebes), via mutant disco (Cristina) and dark gothic pop (Siouxsie & The Banshees). Perhaps because of the diversity, there’s no real sign of a definitive John Cale signature sound, certainly not beyond the early ‘70s, so we can assume he’s a facilitator, a Steve Lillywhite figure rather than a Daniel Lanois. Whatever his methods, “Conflict & Catalysis” is a perfectly fine collection, with sufficient obscure nuggets to warrant investigation, and more than enough classic material to justify the project.
Simon M.

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