John Cale • Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
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Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood is a title to set tongues wagging and minds wondering, but for an album that seems born of a return to John’s youth it seems safely apt in its mischievousness.
After nearly 50 years of making music it’s still freshly evident that Cale draws from a make believe world first imagined by his young self. Track title ‘Mothra’ pays homage to the Japanese monster from Godzilla movies. As a boy practicing scales in grey skied Welsh valleys such fantastical flights of fancy must have been reassuring of the path that was potentially about to unfold for him. Lyrics reveal even more explicitly earlier incarnations of Cale and in the same song we relive an encounter with a local bully,
"You see me running, you see me climb, reading my books and always trying, laughing and teasing and I love to play, dreaming my dreams are never far away"
Elsewhere Cale’s doing what he does best, guiding listeners through the places, politics, and people of the day. A wide range of human experience is reflected and often it’s for the listener to dig deeper to find what’s being documented. Sometimes however part of the tapestry is pulled soberingly into focus; when listening to ‘Scotland Yard’ while the Leveson enquiry plays out, it’s all too easy to recognize the guilty.
As a producer Cale has reached a new plateau on this record. At the albums most maximal, it feels like looking at a collection of precious stones. Myriads of differently coloured and textured surfaces carefully placed together, each finding their own space to beckon the ear. It’s a blend of chaos and beauty in equal measure and a testament to the exploratory spirit at work, which ensures that as always, there's something new to the ears here.