Friday, 16 October 2015

Year by year: 1973

John Cale - PARIS 1919

Paris 1919 is a pastoral musical delight, only broken up occasionally by a harder-edged tune like “Macbeth” or a sneaky thought that there had to be something dubious, something unsettling about those songs (an idea confirmed by Cale himself on the recent reissue of this album). But whatever that nasty message could be – you don’t want it. You don’t want to break the spell.

The spell is the songcraft. Not a second wasted, not breath and not a chord. Even the lordly, stylishly white cover looks the part. The music is pure white, too, non-threatening but having the kind of songwriting edge you would expect from Cale. This was the man, remember, who would get to headless chickens on stage in just a few years. “Child’s Christmas In Wales” is so far removed from “Venus In Furs” that you find it utterly intriguing, unintentionally so. And then of course “Andalucia” and the title track and “Antarctica Starts Here”, all completing this breathless masterpiece. 

And it was a totally moving experience – to get this album in Cardiff and then, a few hours later, run into a green-haired freegan, formerly a musician, who once played with John Cale at some 90s session. For me this music whispers and breathes Wales of old. I do not wish to know what lies underneath.