Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nick Cave is the man

Last night, I was listening to the Grinderman 2 album and it struck me that Nick Cave is the fuckin' man. There are few artists that maintain a high level of quality output and most either peter out into mediocrity (U2) or release nothing and play the greatest hits tour over and over (The Eagles - although referring to them as an artist is a stretch). Nick Cave is one of the few artists I can think who is still releasing albums as vital and as interesting as when he started.

Ok, he may never write another Mercy Seat or The Carney (who could?) but Grinderman 2 is a visceral and exciting record which captures something that the Bad Seeds albums have been missing of late - the psychotic and demented presence of Cave live. Seeing Nick Cave live is different from listening to him on record - he is simultaneously lunatic, preacher and loverman begging, seducing, chastising and screaming at the crowd. A man possessed. A man unleashed. Grinderman seems to capture that rampant energy on record.

That's not to say the Bad Seeds have been slouches either. While I think Nocturama was a miss and Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus passed me by, everything else is pretty awesome, even the drug fucked stuff from the late 80's. Further, he's also writing books (shit), screenplays (good) and soundtracks (excellent, especially the Jesse James one). It seems that as he's gotten older he's hit the productivity overdrive button and gone for it. I'm particularly excited about the next Bad Seeds record which will be the first that features Ed Kuepper as part of the band - it'll be interesting to see the competing egos and styles of Ellis, Cave and Kuepper go head to head.

Cave's vision and voice is so singular that it is unmistakable and original. People throw around descriptions such as literary and Gothic but his work defines genre or classification. I guess I would describe it as Southern-neo-classical-biblical-grime-vaudeville-punk-apocalyptic-freeform-blues-love-songs-from-hell or some such thing. But Nick Cave, even at his worst and indulgent, is never less than compelling.

I would contend that there are few artists forging a prolonged singular path though music - in a world where Nickelback exists it almost seems a miracle that there are musicians like Cave, Tom Waits, PJ Harvey etc... Despite this, when Nick straps on his tele and grapples it like he's wrestling with a wounded beast, you know this is a man who is not slowing down, not compromising and not giving a fuck. He's producing music that is passionate, messy and inspired. That's why Nick Cave is the fuckin' man.


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