MUSIC FOR A NEW SOCIETY/M:FANS
Bleak is one of the things art does best. Usually starkness is a key tool in creating it (think Beckett), but it can also be done more gothically, as artists like Mervyn Peake have shown. In 1982 John Cale, whose body of work remains under-acknowledged as a pivotal influence on so much music of the last 50 years, released the dangerously bleak Music For A New Society, with song titles like Broken Bird and Taking Your Life in Your Hands. Now he has re-recorded these songs, adding sparse amounts of bleeding, gothic meat to the originals’ stark bones.
This has been done so deftly that the new versions are, if anything, more disturbing. Synth bass and sampled drums now lurch from the speakers like monstrous automatons that would flatten all in their path, and Cale’s distinctive, dark, intense singing has to fight for its place in the mix, so you sit forward to catch the words, and are often left shell-shocked by the sadness and desperation of what you hear.