A Trivial Comedy for serious people archives

[To preface this: I wrote this for the board a long time ago and just reread it, and thought it was too silly not to share. Also, in the ensuing discussion, I compared myself to "a fine establishment that has been selling menswear since 1896."]

Or, songs one should be aware of
In List Form
IN HONOR of my coming Nick Cavastranza

I'm leaving out The Birthday Part, solo projects, and basically everything Nick Cave has done without The Bad Seeds. Basically because I don't know them very well, but I have the general gist: The Birthday Party is goth and hard to get a hold of. Also, I can only really deal lightly with his first few albums – several of them verge upon unlistenable, several of them I've had no desire to acquire. They're raw, and certainly terrifying and beautiful for that, but I'm not so raw anymore.

Before Tender Prey, I am only really aware of a handful of songs. (I tried to listen to more, but just couldn't.) The most important is probably In the Ghetto, which is a truly brilliant Elvis cover. It's loping and haunting, and it gives you a sense of how grand Nick Cave's voice can be. Tupelo (always with the Elvis, no?) lets us know how obsessed the little Australian man is with the American south. It's dark, and long, and absolutely saturated in biblical imagery and floods - the stuff of rural American blues. Listen to it during a thunderstorm.

Kicking Against the Pricks is a cover album, with which I am woefully unacquainted. I feel like I really should object to the song Black Betty but will admit anyway that I do like it (and prefer it to Mr. Tom Jones.)

After Tender Prey, I get a lot better with Mr. Cave and the Bad Seeds. I'm not sure if they necessarily get a lot better, but I find them much more listenable. And there are more love songs, and I am really quite the sucker.

The Mercy Seat is unreal. It's a throbbingly long - a hypnotising and scary song from the point of view of a man waiting to be executed. The recording sounds a little tinny and far off, but the lyrics hang with me like a good thief – "And in a way I'm yearning to be done with all this measuring of truth.” Listen to the version from "Live Seeds" to get a better idea of what the song should be.

Up Jumped the Devil is one of my favourite songs, but probably only for the first verse where the speaker's "Daddy did a jig with the drunk midwife.” I have absorbed phrases from Nick Cave, but my favourite is "drunk as czars." It's a good dancing song.

Deanna sounds like classic post-punk-("Ihategenres")-pop, including Cadillacs, a sing-a-long chorus, and murder. Lots of murder. It's hard not to roll your eyes at it, because you know Cave and The Seeds can do Very Serious music, but it's also a weird and even inappropriately fun song.

Slowly Goes the Night strikes me as particularly classic. It is not a hard song to listen to. It sounds a bit mo-town, even, to my untrained ear. Sugar Sugar Sugar is my personal theme song, all sex and violence and the threat of men. I love it. Then, I would.

The Good Son is a great album. It's also one of those albums, other than Murder Ballads, that people tend to really know about it. People do stuff like have The Ship Song sung at their weddings. It's a lovely song, and you can see why pretty quickly.

When I'm sitting around, posturing myself as a particularly cynical and jaded individual, making loud pronouncements that love is a hoax played on us by biology, The Ship Song is one of the few things that can make my knees give way and my head bow. Lyrically, it's simple, but it doesn't need to be any other way. It's elegant beyond reckoning, and my friends and I wonder if Nick Cave love exists. I hope so.

Find his cover of Helpless. It's beautiful. Foi na cruz is liltingly pretty. The Weeping Song is odd, it's very clearly a made thing. You look at the lyrics and can tell (from the repetition, from the variation on the theme) that it is a song, and I like it for that. It's darker and louder than the rest of the album, but it gets under your skin in a good way. It was one of the first Cave songs I ever listened to, and it's not a bad place to start – it gives you a good idea of his darker slant without terrifying you or lulling you to think that everything is as pretty as, say, Into My Arms.

Henry's Dream is a wonderful if somewhat uneven album. I like several songs on it very much, and can't stomach the others. Straight to You is a love song, Papa Won't Leave you Henry is a roaring travelling epic (several later albums are full of songs about walking, this is an early example), Brother my Cup is Empty is another one of my theme songs. It goes very well with Papa won't leave you…, I find.

Let Love In is my friend Sarah's and mine favourite album, though like an indulgent lying grandmother we tell all the albums that we love them best. It's the point in his musical career where I stop skipping through songs and can listen to the entire album straight through.

Do you love me? and the more sedate, pensive, post script Do you love me? Part two frame the album. Part one is violent, sexy, and driving. Part two, he wanders and reflects. Loverman is over the top, and thoroughly delightful. Note the amusing orthography. ("N is for knowing? Alright, dude.") Metallica covered it, that should tell you something. Nobody's baby now is a wistful song of a diseased love lost, with the kind of lyrics that sound plucked from a gothic romance.

It only gets better from here! But I am tired. To be continued...

Carrying on...

Well, Murder Ballads. I don't really listen to it, but I suppose it's a pretty important album. It's comic macabre, and I guess you have to be in the mood for it. Stagger Lee is a pretty startling song to listen to - I honestly felt a bit shaken listening to it. It's, you know, worth listening to at least once. I wouldn't say the album (what I've heard) is truly unlistenable, the way early Nick Cave can be.

Ah, but now I get more enthused! Because the next two albums are truly wonderful.

The Boatman's Call is lovely. There's not a song I skip over, though there are (of course) some I like better than others. There are two of my favorite love songs in creation - Into my Arms, and Are you the one that I've been waiting for? The lyrics are sublime. Some of the songs (like Black Hair) have taken a while to grow on me. It's lovely as sin. Brompton Oratory is a latter day favorite of mine.

And no more shall we part is a brilliant album. I can't really recommend anything on it, because I'll end up listing the whole album. The only song I'm not especially taken with is God is in the House. I feel very comforted by Sweetheart Come, it makes me want to curl up in his arms. And Darker with the Day makes for a beautiful crescendo to the album. Hallelujah is both beautiful and creepy. It's an albums of large songs. They're none of them easy to dismiss or write off as fluff. There's no filler. It also (unlike some of his albums) works extraordinarily well in order, as an album unto itself.

Nocturama is his latest. It's alright. I don't think it's half as good as And no more..., which is too bad, but it's still got some songs I like. Note the cover art - ah, he has no chin. Babe I'm on Fire is very, very Nick Cave. It's also fifteen minutes long.

There are some noteworthy b-sides - my favorite (it makes me cry like a baby) is Come into my sleep.

2005-03-26, nick cave

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