Music for a New Society (1982) by John Cale

Categories: 1982 and Music.

I have read a lot (perhaps too much) about the way this album was made, and the rather drastic change in Cale’s method that was part of the process. Maybe reading about that created an image in my mind that this album does not live up to. If that’s so, it makes me sad.

This is clearly an extremely personal record for Cale, significantly more personal than his records I am familiar with from the previous decade. The lyrics are now (nearly) entirely confessional instead of narrative and I suspect that these songs might resonate with me more than Cale’s earlier songs given enough listens.

But after three listens, these lyrics, combined with the approach (ostensibly live in the studio from what I’ve read, though it sure doesn’t sound like it to my ears) result in a record that is really hard to love initially. I respect that and I often really like it. in this case, something is in the way.

One thing I suspect is that I’ve just raised my expectations too much based on reading about it. But the other thing is that Cale didn’t quite get his way, with one full band track (noticeably different from everything else) being included against his will.

Also, Cale thought about including a sample that would have further darkened the mood, which I’m all for. Basically: he has regrets. So many that he re-recorded the thing in 2016.

It’s this knowledge and these expectations that I believe have caused me to be disappointed. I look forward to listening to it again in the future with a different view of things, and hopefully I will find it as compelling as I’m supposed to.

7/10

All tracks written by John Cale, except where noted.

  1. “Taking Your Life in Your Hands” 4:45
  2. “Thoughtless Kind” 2:45
  3. “Sanctus” (“Sanities”) 5:56
  4. “If You Were Still Around” Cale, Sam Shepard 3:24
  5. “(I Keep A) Close Watch” 2:11
  6. “Mama’s Song” 0:58
  7. “Broken Bird” 4:43
  8. “Chinese Envoy” 3:11
  9. “Changes Made” 3:12
  10. “Damn Life” Cale, Risé Cale (and Beethoven) 5:11
  11. “Risé, Sam and Rimsky-Korsakov” Cale, Shepard 2:12
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