Review of Extra Playful EP by John Cale

There's a line on John Cale's latest EP Extra Playful that seems to sum up his attitude to music, "You were hopefully looking for perfection". It's something he seems to have been searching for during his half a decade as a recording artist, from his classical training to his more experimental rock. As he approaches the elder statesman age of 70, he certainly isn't calling off the search.

John Cale Extra Playful EP

Unlike some of his contemporaries who rely on their glory years to sustain their careers, Cale has instead continued to push forward, producing some of his best solo work in the last decade. Extra Playful follows that trend; in the space of just 5 tracks he turns his attention to a variety of different styles, thereby delivering an ideal appetiser for a full-length album in 2012.

'Catastrofuk' is a suitably angry introduction with its fuzzy bass and effects laden guitars. It's a rallying cry against commercialism with one eye on the future, "say hello to the future and goodbye to the past, hurry up through the present and get there fast". Cale also utilises his trademark piano sparingly here, instead using studio trickery and backing vocal loops to flesh out the track.

The more sedate 'Whaddya Mean By That' uses many of the same musical elements to create a breezier pop track. The guitar solo here cross fades from one speaker to the next, while electronic drones populate a landscape that sounds almost dreamlike. The sample laden and funky stomp of 'Hey Ray' meanwhile showcases the extra playful side that Cale alludes to with the EP title. Here he creates a comical take on 60's political conspiracy theories, "1964, Castro's up in Harlem, 1965, they're having a riot". It's a song that Cale has performed live for a number of years and is based upon the letters he used to receive from a friend. The track is also given an extra level of faux paranoia by the feedback and loops used.

Cale then shifts a gear with 'Pile A L'Heure' (Right On Time), the vocal is sung in French with various echo effects used. To back this foray into more foreign territory is a viola drone alongside drums, which seem to implode at the climax of the track. Rounding off the EP is the distinctly 70's sounding pop of 'Perfection' which at times shares as much of it's musical DNA with post punk as it does disco.

At it's heart then, Extra Playful is about Cale having fun in the studio while continuing to develop his array of musical styles, There's little sign of him running short of ideas as he embraces new techniques, while he may not have found his musical perfection yet, he's certainly getting close.


Jim Pusey.

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