Crafty Velvet. John Cale, Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood.

John Cale, OBE is of a dying breed. One composed of musicians to have lived, without dying, the long since glorified years of the early '70s. The almost grotesquely romanticised late '60s, even. Not only that, but he played a fundamental part in the founding of NYC's most preeminent band of the time. To his testament, he sought pastures new and ones rather less littered with dirtied syringes, one envisages, than those around which The Velvet Underground crept having departed back in '68. As such, he may continue to lead a fruitful recording career (Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood is his umpteenth release since, and d├ębut outing on Domino imprint Double Six) while onetime contemporaries continue to vegetate rather dispiritingly, if they've not already withered away entirely. Having featured on The Velvets' two finest full-lengths, his relevance to our modern-day way of perceiving music can never be negated, although I've always regarded Cale as something of an alt. icon; a precursor for bands hailing from anywhere and comprising anyone from Edwyn Collins, to Bryan Ferry. There's a suavity to the Carmarthenshire multi-instrumentalist that, whilst imitable, remains infrequently encountered. For Cale has been there, done the dubious substances one suspects, and has emerged on the other side with every iota of dignity intact. Or rather almost every iota.

For midway through these Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood falls December Rains, a damp squib of way outta date Auto-Tune that surely went off the week of 808s & Heartbreak release. Featuring the irksome lyric of "with Google getting on your nerves", it's a desperate – and desperately misjudged attempt at maintaining an already infallible street cred. And it almost scribbles some out. For Cale's true charm is that his songwriting style is unwavering in its urbanity. It's retrospective, and not entirely of these times so to have him scrabbling about themes such as the world wide web can discombobulate more than it may divert. Even with his hair dyed a startling pink hue, modernity isn't something expected of Cale, and that's no bad thing in an epoch in which music, and the art of, are of undeniably diminishing value. Pecuniarily, at the very least. So December Rains is a vexatiously uncalled for affair, and musically too feels akin to the Pet Shop Boys' flouncy electropop at its most flimsy. As the Auto-Tune gets plugged in once again on the primordial thumping of Mothra, this sound of Cale trying "something new today" begins to provoke genuine cause for concern. But then few records, if any, attain objective perfection. I ought, at this point, interject the sad truth that I never cared for There She Goes Again. That didn't make The Velvet Undergroud & Nico any less seminal from my perspective, and these isolated instances do little to extinguish the raging greatness aflame throughout much of Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood.

Nookie Wood, for instance, sees Cale's classic songwriting approach set against ratchet clanks and cyber FX, the resulting effect one of Trent Reznor armed with Kevin Shields' sharpened guitar lines scrounging about in the glam undergrowth of '79. It's Cale plumping for the unconventional to a rather more convincing end. Vampire Cafe, meanwhile, is a bloody intriguing neo-apocalyptic ballad that teethes minimal synthetic rhythms and pained groans of Munchian horror. It's coffee table music as you've never heard it previously; coffee table music that were it placed in direct sunlight would bleed all over your mahoganies and disintegrate long before sunset.

Although it's when Cale sings as we've come to expect Cale to sing – in that deadpan croon of his – that he hauls us right back on side. Nothing reaffirms belief like the forthwith recognisable, and Hemingway is precisely that. His voice fluctuating between uncontainable falsetto and a shallow baritone that's almost parodical of a hollow club singer chortle, it's evocative of the ensuing scramble as the entangled vocal chords of Collins and Ferry vie for liberty. Personally, too, Cale now seems something of an amalgam of the two; as bumbling as he is debonair. This is at least the impression gauged on Scotland Yard: almost more Cave than Cale, it's a sonic meme of menace; a mesmeric brood only to be aired deep within "the hungry night" that vividly captures the social paranoia of they that only irregularly emerge from behind twitching curtains for fear of inadvertently ambling into a London crime scene and consequently of yo-yoing in and out of the Met Police HQ. "Living knowing you've done nothing wrong/ Living as if you've done something wrong/ You knew it could happen/ You knew that it would/ You knew it could happen" may not compose the most eloquent of refrains, although its insistence forces the issue. It's a verisimilitudinous matter even for your average, unassuming Londoner, is crime.

Shoot me down for the heinous punnage, although it's the album's criminally infectious lead single, I Wanna Talk 2 U, that has Cale chattering at his most overtly listenable. Composed in part by Brian Burton there's a luscious, if disjointed harmony at its core that's more West Coast than Southwest Walian as it stands out as A Girl Like You of the current class. And when Cale isn't striving for the current, he's still nearing the top of it. There or thereabouts.