Monday, March 31, 2008

Nick the stripper, Nick the necromancer

Cave's first band, The Boys Next Door, a quintet of school yard buddies playing disposable, tinny new wave was to become the nucleus of the influential Birthday Party. Transcending the No Wave movement, The Party lasted until 1984. In just 6 years, Cave and Co. had gone straight for the jugular, leaving heads shaking in disbelief of what had transpired. As unforgiving as Puriel, Cave casts aspersions as he assumes a Faustian persona. It was during this period, that he became the master storyteller. Telling and re-telling legends, his gift is never really separating himself from the story. Is he narrator, spectator, antagonist, victim? Or is he all those things, at once telling the story that he is inextricably a part of. His subject matter is often the wild, untamed frontier of America, and the underbelly of it's dark south. A sweat shop seamstress of history, he weaves his tales from the standpoint of a brooding, anonymous yet prejudiced witness.

Pure piss and vinegar. I'm just sayin'.

Nick The Stripper- The Birthday Party

Tupelo- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Tupelo- John Lee Hooker

Stagger Lee- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Shivers-The Boys Next Door

John Finn's Wife- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

The Carny- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Stagolee- Mississippi John Hurt

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Is there a doctor in the house?

In acknowledgement of Nick Cave's honorary degree of Doctor of Law from his alma mater, Monash University in Australia (at which he only completed two years), I have set out, dedicated and determined to explore this prolific (and a personal favorite) artist.

Bear with me. Like trying to navigate and contemplate Deuteronomy, Dr.Cave's career is tantamount to the Old and New Testament of the Bible. His poetry, writings, music and vision are intertwined with the gospel, it's effects on his and our collective psyche and the world around us.

A tall order for a little blog, but I'll give it a shot.

For starters, here's an easy one. The signature tune The Mercy Seat from 1988's Tender Prey, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds fifth release.

A prime example of 'Old Testament' Nick Cave, his conviction and ambivalence are clearly evident as he spins a tale of a man and his journey both physically and spiritually to a fate that awaits him in the electric chair. Cave wrestles with virtue, weighing and extolling it's benefits and consequences. I find it particularly interesting how the song ends. The protagonist, after continual professions of indifference and innocence, comes clean:

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth.
An eye for an eye
And a truth for a truth
And anyway I told the truth
But I'm afraid I told a lie

This overarching theme, this dichotomy that grips Cave is prevalent in all his work, throughout his career.

In his own words, from the forward he penned for An Introduction To The Gospel According To Mark:

When I bought my first copy of the Bible, the King James version, it was to the Old Testament that I was drawn, with its maniacal, punitive God who dealt out to His long-suffering humanity punishments that had me drop-jawed in disbelief at the very depth of their vengefulness. I had a burgeoning interest in violent literature, coupled with an unnamed sense of the divinity in things and, in my early twenties, the Old Testament spoke to that part of me that railed and hissed and spat at the world. I believed in God, but I also believed that God was malign and if the Old Testament was testament to anything, it was testament to that. Evil seemed to live close to the surface of existence within it, you could smell its mad breath, see the yellow smoke curl from its many pages, hear the blood-curdling moans of despair. It was a wonderful, terrible book, and it was sacred scripture."

FYI, In biblical terms, The Mercy Seat is the slab of solid gold that sits atop the Ark of The Covenant. Cave's keen ability to address, incorporate and manipulate symbolism challenges the listener to think while listening. To hear what is being said beyond just the lyrics and music. This is part of Cave's genius, and his longevity.

Not to be outdone, I've included the Man in Black's cover from 2000's American III: Solitary Man. Amen.

I'm just sayin'.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- The Mercy Seat (Live).mp3

Johnny Cash- The Mercy Seat.mp3

Monday, March 17, 2008

Killer Set of Pipes

Although it's St. Patrick's Day and I always associate it with bagpipes, the Scots were really the ones to put the pipes on the map.

The following is lifted from

"As a musical instrument of war, the Great Pipes of the Highlands were without equal, according to historians. The shrill and penetrating notes worked well in the roar and din of battle and pipes could be heard at distances up to 10 miles. Because of the importance of the bagpipes to any Highland army, they were classified as an instrument of war by the Loyalist government during the Highland uprising in the 1700s. After the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, kilts and bagpipes were outlawed, the pipes being classified as instruments of war."

The roar of the pipes. Must have scared the piss out of the enemy.

I'm just sayin'.

Scotland The Brave.mp3

Scottish Jig.mp3

Ode To Joy.mp3

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Never been to Cleveland

Just a little rant. From an email sent to Mr Walsh. discussing Monday's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony:

I hope the Hall never acknowledges the New York scene. I think the RnRHoF and the Grammy's are hollow accolades, distributed to placate industry types who love to say, “ I was there when...”

Truth be told, rock is/was never about history, it’s all about the now. The RnRHoF is a museum, a repository for artifacts, dead history. I think once a year they should take an Elvis jumpsuit or something and burn it.

And handing out awards, what bullshit. The Grammy’s are so out of touch with music, always have been. It was nice to see a Jazz record win best album, but did you even hear about it before the awards? I can say without having heard it myself, it is not Herbie Hancock’s best work. Kinda like a lifetime achievement award I guess....and the worst thing to happen to Amy Winehouse was collectiing all those phonographs. Can you say Lauryn Hill?

The industry needing to legitimize itself with awards. So pretentious. And the amazing thing is that the music biz is dying, flopping around like a fish on a boat, gasping for air, not knowing what to do to stay alive.

Last week we went to the Plug Awards, get this, an ‘Indie’ awards show...totally a waste, they had a ‘blogger pit’. Sickening. If not for the standout performances by St. Vincent and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, the night would have been a complete write off.

I'm just sayin'.

St. Vincent- Now, Now.mp3

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

TV Dinner

On this date in 1977, Television released their debut album, Marquee Moon.

As far as influence, Television is more seminal than a Jenna Jameson video. Who knew this little New York band, the 'house band' of CBGB's (and first to play the legendary venue), a band that only released two studio LP's would have left such an indelible mark on pop music.

Tom Verlaine's dreamy, self absorbed lyrics? Richard Lloyd's searing six string assaults? Fate's hand in being in exactly the right place at the right time? I recall lightning strike itself.

They were touted as a punk band, but they were anything but. What they were was the first 'alternative' band. They were different. Different than bands before them and different from their peers. Where do they really fit? Window lickers riding the little yellow bus of rock and roll.

Formed in '73, during the decade of pretentious prog rock and grandiose cock rock, Television stood out. When he closest thing to alternative was a skinny British transvestite rock star singing about a skinny British transvestite rock star, and a skinny American transvestite singing about heroin to college kids, Television offered an alternative.

So, you have the ingredients: Verlaine and grade school buddy Richard Hell. Restless kids from Delaware. The mix: one part Richard Lloyd, dash of CBGB's, shake well and serve with a burgeoning New York music scene. Makes a nice cocktail. I've gone back to the bar on this one since I was growin' hair down there.

Musically accomplished, Television was more akin to extended, free form Dead-like jams, then two minute Ramones blasts. Different. Alternative. It's easy to get lost in the epic opus that is 'Marquee Moon'.

Back to the influence. REM, U2, Replacements (although Big Star might edge them out), and current bands like Wilco to name just a few. Check the homage factor on some of the Wilco tracks. And a peroxide-coiffed Michael Stipe belting out 'See No Evil' back during their Reagan-era heyday.

Although this album is 31 years old, it's fresh ever time it gets a spin. Punk? Attitude, yes. Sound, not so much. Different 31 years later? Absolutely.

When you leave a mark, a big, nasty greenish-yellow bruise on rock, it's hard to reconcile Television as being part of any blank generation.

I'm just sayin'.

Television- Marquee Moon.mp3

Television- See No Evil.mp3

Television- The Dream's Dream.mp3

Wilco- Spiders (Kidsmoke).mp3

Wilco- At Least That's What You Said.mp3

Television- 'Foxhole' 1978

R.E.M. 'See No Evil' 1985