Thursday, June 07, 2007

Aussie rules

Who better to write an appreciation of the richness, beauty and power of Nick Cave's lyrics than Will Self, confessedly an admirer of Cave's novel 'And The Ass Saw The Angel' and like him someone who has immersed himself in a "toxic imbroglio"?

Self recognises the peculiarly Australian quality to his poetic voice (something of which I was reminded when watching 'The Proposition' for a second time at the weekend), but doesn't simply laud him for his tales of brutal violence and Old Testament morality: "If Cave were to be typified as a lyricist of blood, guts and angst, it would be a grave mistake. He stands as one of the great writers on love of our era. Each Cave love song is at once perfumed with yearning, and already stinks of the putrefying loss to come. For Cave, consummation is always exactly that". (Incidentally, Cave actually said much the same himself when he was the subject of 'The South Bank Show': "For me, the great love song has within it an ache".

It's also good to note that Self isn't guilty - as many people are - of depicting Cave purely as some kind of po-faced preacher of the apocalypse; he draws attention to the wickedly satirical and absurdist elements of Cave's lyrics, elements which have become increasingly pronounced in recent years. Self points to 'God Is In The House', claiming it "demonstrates his ability to ironise, then re-ironise, and then re-ironise again, engendering a dizzying vortex as received values are sucked down the pointed plughole", but he could equally have gestured towards 'Hallelujah' from the same record, or the storming single 'There She Goes, My Beautiful World' from his last offering, 2005's double album Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus, for evidence of Cave having a sense of humour.

No mention, though, of the extraordinary opening lines to 'Into Your Arms', the opener and lead single from The Boatman's Call - so, just to put matters right: "I don't believe in an interventionist God / But I know, darling, that you do / But if I did I would kneel down and ask him / Not to intervene when it came to you".

(Thanks to Pete for the link.)


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