Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mr Impostume, the Blog-reading public needs to know, are you now or have you ever been…. a Nick Cave fan?

Well…intermittently, though I found the sheer laziness of “Nocturama”, especially the justifiably reviled “Rock of Gibraltar” (“I met her in June, I bought her a spoon, we got married soon, then I looked at the moon,”) so hard to forgive that I never got round to checking out the apparently great “Abattoir Blues” at all, though I suspect Cave, having now entered the Pantheon will have the obligatory “Laughably Past It/ Stunning Return to Form” verdict passed on alternate releases until the day he’s interred in the great Bloooze Mausoleum in the sky along with Hank, Lenny, Bobby, et al. It was evident by the time the clunkily, cod-classically entitled “ And no more shall we part” (Nay and verily forsooth thrice nay shall we oh betrothed one!) that Cave was a spent force, his Apocalyptic baroque having modulated into a Mathew Arnoldish melancholy for a fallen world, (oh love, let us stay true to one another!) from Southern Gothic to sheepish Anglicanism in but a few years. While his much trumpeted marriage might have been a great way to keep Old Nick from worrying the heavy-duty padlocks on family medicine chest before breakfast had even been served, it seemed pretty disastrous for his song writing* (yes, that’s right I blame women and their petty domestic demands for emasculating the great Romantic artist that is man!) The muse now had to take her shoes off in the hall every time she came round and make polite small talk about how well the Azaleas were doing. The bowl of vomit that Cave claimed he was thematically chained to seemed to have been surreptitiously replaced with syrup, or worse still a very large mug of Ovaltine. In other words that most destructive of all middle-aged infirmities, contentment, had well and truly set in.

What then are we to make of “Grinderman,”** “Foul-mouthed, noisy, hairy, and damn well old enough to know better,” Cave's attempt along with a couple of members of the Bad Seeds to rock out, kick ass, inject some guitar-based venom and vitriol into the sedate body politic of Coldplayed-out contemporary rock, to jack up again on the fire and brimstone of old ? Cave’s "Tin Machine”? A horribly public Mid-life crisis, Cave trying to prove that he can still thrash around in the beer dregs and scream the blood vessels in his eyeballs black as good as any young pretender (“I ain’t gots so old I cain’t lick any wun a you ornery young pups yet”, mumbles old Pa Cave on his way out of the dressing room.) Well, what indeed? The track the band put up on their MySpace page, “No Pussy Blues” seemed promising. It was of course largely ruined by Caves prolixity and general desire to be a scurrilous old wag, but there was a silvered, scraping weight to the big wah-wah riff that kicked in halfway through and even if the rhythm section was a trudge through a muddy Berkshire field in oversized Wellies, the possibility was there that an album’s worth of this stuff might up the ante and crank out some tastily souped up, squalling and squawking dirty Rawk. While it wasn’t going to be “Mutiny in Heaven” part two at least you could imagine that they might have a few nasty, guttural Garage tricks up their sleeve.

“Foul-mouthed, noisy, hairy, and damn well old enough to know better.” Does it do what it says on the tin? As it stands it’s fulfilled fifty-percent of the bargain,“hairy, and damn well old enough to know better.” “No Pussy Blues” is not so much a taster of the album as its standout track. Bathos soughs horribly around in even the most generous listener as one track shuffles politely into the next and the promised noise and foulness fail to materialise. The percentage of hard-fast-loud tracks to lugubruious and sub-Bad Seedsy, love-is-redemptive, Winter-sunlight-in-the-conservatory windows, bathchair crooning is approximately fifty- fifty though sometimes it's hard to tell the two apart. The first track, the album presumably blasting off with evil fuzz-voodoo intensity, is just embarrassingly weak, and in Cave’s attempts to be both a Hellfire-fueled rabble-rouser as well as, you know, the grand-old-man-of-letters, deeply misjudged. Lyrically Leonard Cohen enervates the later Nick Cave in the same way Flannery O’Conner and Faulkner invigorated his earlier work in the Birthday Party and that wry, salacious, social-commentary side of Cohen ( “ First we take Manhattan” “The Future”, of which Cave is only ever a pale imitation anyway) dominates his performance on “Grinder man.” “All we wanted was a little consensual rape in the afternoon and maybe a bit more in the evening. We are scientists. We do genetics,” he deadpans on the plodding “Go tell the women.” On “Love Bomb” (all the titles are appalling, by the way) a “rocky” number, the pitfalls of Cave’s matrimonial life provide a series of mildly amusing diversions while the band trot out something that the Gun Club or the Fuzztones would probably have stuck on a B-side. During the moderately groovy,“Honey Bee,” he imitates a honey bee. “Honey bee let’s fly to Mars. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!”And this from the man who gave us, “ Oh god, please let me die beneath her fists!”

Nick Cave will never be entirely unwelcome round Impostume heights, we’ve known each other too long, and “Grinderman” is pleasant enough to listen to while you’re doing the ironing (not that I ever iron my clothes obviously. I don’t even wear clothes, I’m THAT rock and roll) certainly unlikely to loose him any listeners but equally unlikely to get back anyone who gave up after “ From Her to Eternity.”

So what are the Blogs saying, what’s the grassroots’ buzz?

Buy that Drones*** album instead.

* Clearly it’s not marriage per se that’s the problem, look at David Thomas****, never been more rancorous as far as I can make out. The problem is clearly being happily married.

** “ But surely that’s not released until next March, Mr Impostume!” Errrr..let’s just say it fell off the back of a lorry on the Information Super-highway.

*** Although hunting down a copy of “Ascension” by The Aints would probably make The Drones entire output instantly redundant.

**** After a recent Ubu gig during which Mr Thomas had ripped the filters off the pack of Marlboro he was chain smoking and, shall we say, comprehensively abused the audience (looked like it was going to be a fistfight at one point) I drunkenly and possibly foolishly complimented Mr Thomas on his recent, significant weight loss (he could now even move actual parts of his own body!) . “ I got a year to live,” he informed me.


Tom said...

I gather that Nick Cave is quite well known in Turkey and also in Romania. There's a kind of Gothic zone extending throughout South-Eastern Europe and into the Near East where you can find a surprising number of self-declared vampires and Satanists - a liking for Nick Cave seems to be part of the same 'cultural tendency'. Anyway, I only mention this because Nick Cave lives in Hove and whenever I mention this to visiting Turks or Romanians at first they don't believe me, and then they look troubled and disappointed. Perhaps the rot set in when he moved here?

I'll always be grateful to the Birthday Party, because Kewpie Doll on Junkyard was the first song I ever listened to as music rather than as a background to the lyrics, and the realisation that music in itself could be something exciting... well it was an important realisation. And musically, I think the Birthday Party up to Junkyard are fascinating, and the lyrics know their place. But with Mutiny they're like vines growing everywhere, and they strangle the music, until eventually with Cave - certainly by The Mercy Seat - the music seems to be just a background, of no particular interest in itself. And I don't think his words, when they're being discursive, are strong enough. 'Let Love In' for example ought to be 8 lines and a chorus. I'm not sure he's really interested in music at all.

I like his voice though - that's still a fat little insect. He'll never succeed in sounding respectable or house-trained.

carl said...

ahh we'll have to disagree there as i think Mutiny is the BPTYS best..i agree that maybe Cave's lyrics got a little more sprawling on that (but i think they're his best by a longish way, anyway) but i think the music also opened out to accomodate him,i cant think of any other BP songs that have such an obvious groove and use the studio to such good effect..especially with all the clattering percussion and the whinnying voices.. for some reason that track and Kanye's " Jesus Walks" are always linked in my mind as the two songs that really do sound "Biblical"

but i agree that cave increasingly does seem to want to use the music as a backdrop to his literary excursion (i mean he's written novels and screenplays,what more dose he want) and its the verbosity that clogs up his stuff...oddly though i think " the boatman's Call" when he was really miserable is a much simpler album lyrically and not fetsooned with caves usual cod-Cormac McCarthy-isms ( i guess he's never got over reading Sutree or Child of God!) and is a lot less portentuous and bogged down by his literary ego...

Tom said...

You're right about Mutiny.... Deep in the Woods really is great now I think about it. The Carny is a really succesful example of sprawling lyrics with accompaniment too....

ASHDAV said...

He's still pretty big out here too - how else can I explain people forking out 50 quid a ticket (around half the average week's wage) for his recent gig (without the Bad Seeds) in Prague. On the principle that everyone has the right to change I gave him the benefit of the doubt and still liked him musically and lyrically right up to Let Love In, but found Murder Ballads embarrassingly trite and lazy, and have avoided listening to any of his output since then - until last year, when I saw him (with the Bad Seeds) headline a festival incongruously named "Love Planet" (Nick Rave?), and he was truly excellent. There may be life in the old dog yet. By the way Carl, let me know about those CDs