Cale was an admirer of the albums that Beck had created with ProTools; in his sixties, Cale signed with EMI and was let loose in a recording studio with 21st century technology. The perpetually creative Cale utilises these tools effectively, and Hobo Sapiens is full of synthetic textures and trip-hop beats; there’s an addictive loop and bass-line in ‘Bicycle’.
While Cale generally sounds comfortable in this environment, he also successfully plays the age card. ‘Magritte’ has a venerable and authoritative vocal, while ‘Things’ might be the wittiest lyric Cale’s ever written, concerning aged love “The sexual exuberance of a concubine checking my carburettor one more time/With the passion of a thoroughbred and the sensitivity of a moose.”
The biggest issue with Hobo Sapiens is that it’s overlong – the second version of ‘Things’, titled ‘Things X’ feels superfluous – and the album could easily have lost some other songs at the end. Hobo Sapiens isn’t among John Cale’s all time best albums, but it’s stunningly respectable all the same – I can’t imagine many of Cale’s contemporaries being able to pull off an album in this territory with such verve and grace.