John Cale live at Lena Horne Bandshell @ Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York - August 19, 2023
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend - John Cale

Timeline: 2023

Still from the Noise Of You video

Noise Of You video

Releases another single, Noise Of You. It is a surprisingly gentle love song about trying to win back his loved one. It's an amalgam of electronics, spoken word and stacked vocals, some of them with an almost choral delivery, but he changes in the mood in the last seconds of the track, when he demands to be heard. It is another taste from his the new album Mercy.

The video was directed by Pepi Ginsberg, with animations created by Studio Junbi, and photos and home videos supplied by his manager Nita Scott.



On January 20 the Mercy album is finally released. It is his first new studio full-length in over a decade. Quite a few guest musicians were invited to contribute: Weyes Blood, Animal Collective, Sylvan Esso, Tei Shi, Actress, Laurel Halo, and Fat White Family. It garners rave reviews. From Pitchfork:

On MERCY, memory is treacherous. "Not the End of the World" sparkles with a reassuring grandeur, but each time his processed, multi-tracked voice repeats the title, it feels more like a lie. Incendiary The Legal Status of Ice raises a bitter toast to polar bears stranded on an iceberg; Cale intones, "Ding dong, the witch is dead," over a tundra of frosty guitars and cracking drums, and the witch might well be us. In other moments, it's the past that's bewitching. Night Crawling stumbles around with neo-soul swagger, getting nowhere (relatively, for this very downtempo collection) fast. "I can't even tell when you're putting me on/We've played that game before," he chants, trapped in a loop of looking back to reconfirm he's still trapped in a loop. Centerpiece Everlasting Days starts out elegiac, and then Avey Tare and Panda Bear join Cale in dismantling the entire idea of a requiem. Breakbeats remind you they're named for destruction, words shatter into mere syllables, and the motives behind the making of amends are thrown like snapped branches into a bonfire of historical proportions. It's brutal.

English music magazine Uncut:

All that now feels like taking stock before pushing off into the great unknown - for Mercy is the most out-there work Cale has made in some time, a hermetically sealed, hallucinogenic journey that's as neon-lit and gothic as its cover art. The presence of Cale's voice - familiar, rich and avuncular - almost disguises just how radical much of the music is. For instance, the glitchy, doomy crawl of "Marilyn Monroe's Legs (Beauty Elsewhere)", created in collaboration with Cale's favourite Actress, is brought into the light by the Welshman's low croon and high falsetto, flitting hypnotically between a few notes. Even so, it's the most difficult piece here, as much sound design as song, seven minutes long and positioned up front as track two.

On tour to promote "Mercy"

He hits the road again in February,, kicking off with a show in Liverpool (February 6), to resume the promotion of the release of Mercy. After catching up with the rescheduled dates of the UK leg, he plays in mainland Europe. Alex Thomas is back on drums.

Past Lives

Past Lives

You Know More Than I Know is used in Past Lives, a movie made by Korean-Canadian director Celine Song.

s Songs for Drella Japanese DVD

Songs for Drella on DVD in Japan

The 2021 4K restoration of the Songs for Drella movie filmed in 1990 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York is released on DVD in Japan, likely without prior consent from any of the interested parties.

Poster for the show in Athens

Special show in Greece; free show in New York

On June 19 he performs a special show in Athens, Greece @ Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an ancient Roman theatre on the southwest slope of the Acropolis, with the Athens Philharmonia Orchestra. The performance is bathed in "immersive visuals".

On August 19 he plays a free show at the Lena Horne Bandshell @ Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, as part of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! festival. The venue is filled to capacity: 7000 attendees.

Words For The Dying 2023 reissue om clear vinyl

Words For The Dying reissue

Words For The Dying is reissued on clear vinyl via All Saints Records. The album had not been available as an LP since its original release in 1989.

Loaded: The Life (and Afterlife) of The Velvet Underground

Loaded: The Life (and Afterlife) of The Velvet Underground

Yet another book about the Velvets sees the light of day in August. Written by English journalist Dylan Jones, this one also covers the band members' career after the band folded.

Dylan Jones' definitive oral history of The Velvet Underground draws on contributions from remaining members, contemporaneous musicians, critics, film-makers, and the generation of artists who emerged in their wake, to celebrate not only their impact but their legacy, which burns brighter than ever into the 21st century.

Perfectly Imperfect interview

Answers questions about books, looking for pink shoes, and being Welsh in a short interview with New York newsletter Perfectly Imperfect. About the latter:

"Trying to explain to someone why heritage matters and what being Welsh actually means. Then, talking myself down from the realization you just can't explain it to someone who isn't Welsh! Sure, it IS the land of song, choirs and dragons - but say that to my face at your own peril ! Its a deep-rooted, unearthly feeling of melancholy and joy combined loneliness and euphoria simultaneously.

Yup, that's a good start - it is me."
Mercy Welsh Music Prize nominee

Welsh Music Prize

Mercy was on the shortlist for the Welsh Music Prize. The winners, bilingual pop duo Rogue Jones, were announced on October 10 at the Donald Gordon Theatre in Cardiff.

Lou Reed: The King of New York

Lou Reed: The King of New York

American author Will Hermes publishes yet another biography about Lou Reed. He got access to Reed's archives at the New York Public Library, so it actually contains some new insights. About performing Songs For Drella:

Reed and Cale renewed their admiration for each other during the project. But it was hardly stress-free. Reed wanted things his way cording to a chilly fax memo sent to Cale, Reed threatened to scrap the project outright unless Cale accepted his choices. Premiering the work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House, following a warm-up production at the nearby St. Ann's Church, the two men delivered the songs unadorned, with just guitar, keyboards, and viola. During a filmed performance, Cale delivered the "I hate Lou" line with hurt and regret - not at all, it appeared, the way Reed had lobbied for. As Cale's words landed, what seemed a flickering wince of pain blew across Reed's stoic face like a storm cloud before he turned away from the camera.

© 1999- Hans Werksman