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Music for a New Society – John Cale

Music for a New Society

(1982), 8/10
Music for a New Society is a uniquely pained statement, with its intense and minimal performances leaving plenty of white space. ‘Changes Made’ features a full band arrangement with Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Allen Lanier, but the rest of the album is sparse. There are dramatic touches with dramatic percussion strikes and a bagpipe coda on a reworked version of ‘(I Keep A) Close Watch’, but the focus is on Cale’s pained vocals and minimal keyboards. ‘Damn Life’ uses Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy’ as its foundation, slowing it down and sucking all the joy out of it, while Cale accompanies himself on acoustic guitar for the tuneful and insistent ‘Chinese Envoy’. Music for a New Society is a harrowing listen, but there are the bones of some strong songs here, and it’s a strong and unique entry in Cale’s catalogue. Music for a New Society was out of print for a long time, but Cale re-released it in 2016, along with a disc of reworkings titled M:FANS.

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