John Cale’s fourth pop album was his least coherent yet, following the template of Fear but with more scattershot results, veering from mid-1970s mainstream pop to cathartic rockers and experimental pieces that would fit comfortably onto the first Velvet Underground records. Cale was bursting with creative melodies and chord sequences at this time, but there’s virtually nothing linking these tracks together – it’s just a compendium of ten random Cale tracks, and the mainstream piano pop of songs like ‘Rollaroll’ and ‘Ski Patrol’ is melodic but loses significance next to intense material like ‘Guts’ and a psychotic cover of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.
There’s at least one classic here, the opening ‘Mr Wilson’, a tribute to the architect of the Beach Boys albums that Cale kept on high rotation, featuring an athletic vocal and the geographically pertinent lyric “Wales is not like Cali-forni-ay in any way.” ‘Guts’, a reaction to Cale’s wife’s affair with Kevin Ayers on the eve of the Eno/Nico/Cale/Ayers June 1 1974 live album, is full of chunky guitar riffs and psychotic lyrics, while ‘Darling I Need You’ bounces along on a bright country beat . More abstractly, ‘The Jeweller’ recalls the Velvet Underground with its drone and bizarre monologue, while on the other extreme, the crisp lead guitar and the female backing vocals on ‘I’m Not The Loving Kind’ could have come from a Wings album.
There’s some really strong Cale music on Slow Dazzle, and it’s surprisingly listenable given its apparently aimless diversity, but Cale’s capable of far better.