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May 13, 1981 - Image 9

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1981-05-13

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Arts
The Michigan Daily Wednesday, May 13, 1981 Page 9

Bale
By FRED SCHILL
The Syrians have launched surface-
to-air missiles in Lebanon. John Cale's
travelling apocalypse show now seems
like prophecy, its Monday night stop at
Second Chance not so much a warning
as an angst-ridden epitaph for peace
and sanity.
Driven by a disquieting hopelessness,
Cale ripped his vocals straight from the
gut with the scarcely-contained frenzy
of a latter-day Jeremiah. The show was
one continuous apocalyptic vision, a
Blakeian nightmare without the happy
ending, as Cale selected his most
desperate material.
AT THE TIME, it seemed a little
heavy, a bit too desperate and stark in
its imagery even in the masterful hands
of John Cale. There was never any
mistaking the sheer brilliance and
detail of his vision, for Cale saturates
his performances with an incensed in-
tensity that makes every image a
cathartic act, every phrase an attempt
to grab the world by its pressure points
and hold on until it says uncle.
It was one of the most gripping and
emotional shows I have ever witnessed,
a 75-minute compression of all the
elements of frustration that nonetheless
left one a little saddened that Cale
seemed so hopeless.
Then came the tidings of war in the
Mideast, and the haunted chant of
"Mercenaries" ("Are you ready for
war? Ready for war?") lingers
ominously in the mind. There is no point
in overreacting, but suddenly Cale
seems more realistic than nihilistic.
THE SHOW progressed from a
ragged and (for Cale) calm opening
in which he seemed laconic
seemingly increasing its intensity
geometrically during each succeeding
More like
By DENNIS HARVEY
By the curious rules that apply to
movies, bad seriousness is often
hilarious, but bad comedy is generally
a glum matter. Spoofing stupidity
requires considerable intelligence;
without a fine knife's-edge of satire,
silliness curdles into idiocy, grins turn
to grimaces, and a fun premise turns
into The Howling.
The vampire and Frankenstein
genres already having been undone to
death by recent comedies, The Howling
seeks to undo the third and least in-
teresting of the '30's/'40's monster-
movie categories, the werewolf opus.
Director Joe Dante has always been
split between playing his cards straight
and opting for spoofery, resulting in
some uneasy mixtures (Piranha,
Hollywood Boulevard) that could be
excused as grade-B product.
The Howling annoys because it
reaches for something moderately fir-
st-rate, but in execution remains
cheesy to the core. The simple but ef-
fective what's-out-there-in-the-dark
creepiness of its early sections is soon
lost in dumbass jokery juvenalia; ever-

APOCALYPTIC WOW
sounds the alarm

tune. The wrenching primal screams of
"Guts" and the latter-day psychedelia
of "Dead or Alive ("This song is about
necrophilia," said Cale ambigiously)
were parallelled by progressively den-
ser walls of sound from his superb (but
uncredited) band.
Searing, almost strident guitar solos
especially characterized the denser
pieces, a perceptive arrangement that
kept them from becoming less like
walls of sound and more like barriers.
There was an encompassing depth to
the music, an unrelenting thoroughness
that seemed to search every nook and
cranny of the venue. Every ominous
guitar riff and skittery keyboard run
was integrated naturally, even by
necessity, into the bombast.
By the end of the third song, Cale was
in his element. "Fighter Pilot," a new
tune off of his recent LP Honi Soit, lur-
ched suddenly to life with startling
vigor, its truncated rhythms framing
Cale's rugged, scratchy vocals. The
vocal and lyrical expressionism of this
tune and the title cut of the new LP
(whose hook translates to "Evil to him
who evil thinks," the motto of the Royal
Order of the Garter) were just this side
of despair. If Cale has given up, though,
he remains pissed off.
THE ENIGMAS of the show were
Cale's versions of the Modern Lovers'
tune "Pablo Picasso" (featuring a
guitar solo nothing short of ingenious)
and a quiet little love song used to ap-
pease the crowd as a third encore. It
worked, but it seemed an ironic foot-
note to the show.
Someone mentioned to me that John
Cale looks like a 45-year-old carnivore.
That is true, but the ravagement in his
face translates into vituperation in his
vocals, a sort of forced admission of the
truth of his lyrics. He looks worn but not

John Cale

J

a whine
ything dissolves into silliness too lame
to be anything but enervating.
THE STORY is hokey without the wit
that can make hokiness great fun. "In-
vestigative journalist Karen West"
See MEOW, Page13

defeated, though apocalyspe shrieks
out in his encore death march "Mer-
cenaries."
The second encore, "Leaving It Up to
You," found him screaming "Stop!"
frenziedly at the end of the song.
Gradually, the band did as they were
told - but it remains unclear just who
Cale was addressing.
Appropriately, opening act The Shirts
were much more frivolous. A powerful,
urgent band with an inordinate fon-
dness for melodic hooks, the band
mellows its steady roar with the
smooth, rich vocals of lead singer Annie
Golden.
Golden's emphatic strains were in
tune to the strutting guitar riffs, but
their purity also took the edge off of

them. Kicking to the downstrokes,
looking plaintively into the crowd,
Golden seemed as concerned with
theatrics as with ulitizing her super
vocal range.
Well, everybody likes animation, but
Golden's cutesiness wore thin by the
end of the show. Still, The Shirts were
fun, danceable, and a necessary diver-
sion from Cale's solemnity.

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