Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Thank You, Mr. Cave

So I downloaded the new Nick Cave albums yesterday--“Abattoir Blues” and “The Lyre of Orpheus.” I’ve only listened to “Abattoir Blues” as yet--on my bicycle on the way to work this morning. Mein Gott—from the pounding drums that set off the opening track, “Get Ready for Love,” it’s clear Nick isn’t fucking around on this one. He’s not here to sing melancholy ballads--at least not right away--he’s here to rock in a way that he hasn’t since the Birthday Party. The guitar is just fucking vicious, “six strings that drew blood,” all the while Nick sings cynical and psychotic, looking for some kind of sign--Jesus in his reflection, the image from the Shroud of Turin (a fake) rising out of the coaster underneath his sweaty bourbon glass--and the gospel gals belt “Praise Him!” like Patti Labelle on speed, sounding like a stadium full of Pentacostals on the eve of the Apocalypse. “Until we find ourselves at our most distracted,” St. Nick sings, “And the miracle that was promised creeps quietly by.”

And, exultant, we’re led into “Cannibals Hymn,” and some piano, some organ, and a guitar that sounds more like a percussive instrument. And it all goes to show why I love Nick Cave so much. For someone so bruised and battered, someone who can be so sardonic and spiteful in one song, in one lyric, in one twist of tonality on one simple word, he’s still a pie-eyed romantic, and a believer. Every Nick Cave song, from the first Birthday Party album until this latest release, is a struggle with faith, a struggle to believe: in God, in Love, in the idea that believing is still possible. And for all his self-styled, sometimes ham-handed, crucifixion complex, as an artist really does seem to be searching for the light, wading through the abyss with a candle. Like the rest of us, he’s mired in this mortal coil, but not to the point where he gives up seeking transcendence. And there’s something infinitely more satisfying in the tension between feeling born to sin but destined for glory, than in mere musical nihilism. (Mr. Cave paints in a decidedly Christian idiom—but you could just as easily substitute “suffer” for “sin” and “enlightenment” for “glory” and you’ll get the same struggle, in Buddhist terms….) In saving himself again and again, record after record, he makes it salvation--a tiny moment of grace, as sweet as a song--seem possible for the rest of us

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