While I don’t recommend reading the entire book in one rainy night alone, as I did, The Roadby Cormac McCarthy is certainly a riveting, visceral work from one of my favorite authors. My friend Ben started reading it on a Kindle on our drive back from SXSW, and we lost him for the rest of the trip (with a headlamp after dark, even). It is a formidable book, all-absorbing and astounding.
I am quite curious for whatever I can learn about the upcoming film adaptation, featuring Viggo Mortenson and directed by Australian John Hillcoat. The musical score for The Road is being written by one of my other favorite Aussies, Nick Cave.
The two previously worked together on a few features — from Cave contributing writing and acting in Hillcoat’s 1989 movie Ghosts of the Civil Dead, to Hillcoat directing the 2003 music video feature for Nick’s song “Babe I’m On Fire.” Cave also wrote the screenplay and soundtrack for Hillcoat’s 2005 film The Proposition.
The recent 4-minute BBC clip below unveils some of Nick Cave’s musical score for The Road for the first time – elegiac and stirring piano, which is an interesting choice. In my mind, the story in the book is accompanied by a deafeningly vacant amount of pure silence.
Even though some of my favorite moments from Nick Cave are of the rocking variety, he undeniably does the pretty stuff so well — evocative and sad. Check this live video of “Into My Arms,” also from the BBC:
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
Oh, not to touch a hair on your head
Leave you as you are
If he felt he had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms…
Rub your eyes and nurse your Valentine’s Day hangover with two mixes from When You Awake, full of songs that “represent that warm feeling you get when you wake up in your lover’s arms” (which makes me think of this, but hey).
Bands like Vetiver, Bowerbirds, Hymns, Dr. Dog and Langhorne Slim all selected tunes for the compilations, as well as some of your favorite bloggers. Check out their choices and two full mixes here.
Friday night around 2am I was having a conversation out in a dark alley, next to broken-out windows and dumpsters, with a fellow who told me that Nick Cave saved his life.
Back in high school he listened to punk and often felt alienated from the other kids, from the metalhead contingent, the popular rock and the hair bands. Discovering music like Nick Cave’s work with The Birthday Party, and then his early albums with the Bad Seeds in the mid-’80s, had opened up whole new worlds of literate music to him that intelligently and ferociously reached across all boundaries and grabbed hold of him.
As we loitered in the darkness waiting for Nick Cave to emerge from the bowels of the Ogden Theatre after a mindblowingly amazing show, he told me how much Cave had resonated with him over the years. Standing there with his girlfriend, he held a copy of the 1985 album The Firstborn Is Dead to his chest, and in twenty minutes he would be walking away with Nick’s writing across the front, lyrics to “A Train Long-Suffering” written in silver ink still wet around his picture on the black cover. As I touched his shoulder to say bye, he was shaking like a leaf.
I am a latecomer to the cult of Cave, but after Friday night’s sold-out and powerful show, count me as a convert. Apocalyptic and spiritual metaphors are the strongest that come up after you are baptized by fire into a Nick Cave show. As he dances, stomps, writhes and howls onstage, slim and strong in his suit, sweating through his clothes, you feel like you are seeing some sort of punk-rock preacher come to save us from our sins (and planting ideas about a few new ones while he’s at it).
It’s not a gimmick nor a schtick like some Reverends in the rock world, but just the force of his personality, his intense band (with two drummers!!) and the raging quality of his songs. To get some idea of what the entire night was like, watch my favorite video of the year:
DIG, LAZARUS DIG!!!
Cave is one of the most intelligent songwriters I know of, not afraid to mix the sacred and the profane to illustrate new meanings with a punch, or to take on old stories like the closing “Stagger Lee” and make it his own with lyrics I nearly blush to repeat. The music was potent, the performance pure undiluted rock ‘n’ roll. Cave performed everything from the title track from his latest album with aplomb (second in the set), to the earliest songs like “Tupelo” as well as beloved favorites like “Red Right Hand” and “The Mercy Seat.” They held the stage for more than two visceral hours with no signs of letting up until the bitter end.
Setlist: Night of the Lotus Eaters / Dig Lazarus Dig!!! / Tupelo / Today’s Lesson / The Weeping Song / Red Right Hand / Love Letter / Hold on to Yourself / The Mercy Seat / Moonland / Midnight Man / Deanna / We Call Upon the Author / Hard On For Love / Papa Won’t Leave you, Henry ==encore== Wanted Man / Lyre of Orpheus / Stagger Lee
Friday night was one of the best shows I have seen in many moons, as I told Cave after the show. He replied that it had been his favorite of the tour as well despite some sound problems that plagued the beginning, leading to a hapless broken keyboard getting kicked off its stand by the towering Cave and his solid boots. Like everything else about the night, he was unrelenting.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds play Chicago tomorrow night, then a quick lap into Canada, and back to NYC and DC before heading back to Europe.
I was talking on the phone Saturday morning when my Dad came into the house, left a small box on the desk, kissed me on top the head, and left. Look! It’s my new iPod in-ear headphones, a really-belated birthday gift.
It gives me three options for in-ear adapters, small, medium, and large. This is something that has never occurred to me, to wonder what size ear holes I have. It’s a whole new level of self-awareness that I had not previously been familiar with. What if I had really tiny ear holes? (I don’t, I’m medium). Or what if large weren’t big enough for my gaping ear caverns and I needed to special-order an extra large pair, or adapt them with cotton balls or something? These are the things that flit through my mind while I explored the tidy streamlined white case. Anyways. I am so happy with the soft and snug fit, and the sound (better than the one-ear buzz in the standard-issue pair I’ve been living with for months now). I am a happy, medium-eared camper.
Tunes for the week:
Stargaze Xavier Rudd This in one talented Aussie. I saw Xavier Rudd Saturday night at the Gothic Theatre and he’s a burning one-man-band (although he has added a drummer for this tour). Xavier has an earthy, rootsy, world music vibe to him, with a rock and wail comparable to Ben Harper. His stage set-up is hard to describe, involving lots of percussive instruments, three digeridoos, and a lap slide guitar all clustered within his reach. When he played Jimmy Kimmel a few weeks ago, he had fewer instruments, but definitely watch the video to see how he operates. Impressive. When the intro to this song ended and the mustachioed dude with the aviator sunglasses hit it with the driving beat, the entire crowd seemed to start jumping in unison. I got whapped in the face with some gal’s gnarly dreadlock, it was that kind of crowd. Xavier is currently working on the score for the Summer 2008 film Surfer Dude, and his 4th album White Moth is out now on Anti-.
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds I have this tendency to think of Nick Cave as this very baroque, moody musician with sweetly sweeping songs like Ship Song (okay, fine, it comes to mind because PJ covered it). But then I recall last year’s snarl and blues of side-project Grinderman (“No Pussy Blues”), and the danceable apocalypse of this video makes sense. This song knocked me off my feet; it’s the first tune off his new album of the same name (mixed by Nick Launay – Arcade Fire, new Supergrass, Grinderman). You must also watch this video as well, if only to see the moustache and the completely unselfconscious dancing. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! will be out on April 8th in the U.S. on Anti-
Breathless (Nick Cave cover) Cat Power Speaking of the versatility of Nick Cave, I was pleased to find this cover amongst the bonus tracks for the new Cat Power covers album Jukebox, which is out now on Matador. Cat’s version has less meandering on the fife, and more smoldering longing. As is her trademark, she takes a rather peppy little original number and dresses it up like midnight, all reverb and honeyed whispers. It becomes a different song, almost. I love what she does.
Lay Back Down Eric Lindell A little bit of lazy, late summertime soul feels nice right around now. Eric Lindell was born in San Mateo, CA and wound up in New Orleans, where he studied the music, garnered respect, and laid down this second studio album at the famed Piety Street Studios. Low On Cash, Rich In Love (out last week on Alligator Records) has the sweet ache of Van Morrison with that blue-eyed soul groove and the lithe vocals, and channels elements of R&B and Memphis brass bands.
Plus, he also looks a little like K-Fed on his album cover, which clearly is all the more reason to buy this one.
Sing Again Chris Walla The guitarist/producer for Death Cab For Cutie Chris Walla releases his first solo album Field Manual through Barsuk Records next week. I think everyone was kind of expecting that it wouldn’t stray too far from the DCFC aesthetic but I find it to be a unique and varied album that stands up well on its own. This song is crisp and catchy, the beat gets my toes tapping. There’s also some unexpected squaks of dissonance just to keep things fresh, and a what-just-happened drop off ending. Elegant and interesting.
Ed Vedder (didn’t play – see note) a small surprise solo set last night at The Crocodile Cafe in Seattle. I ate breakfast there the last time I was in Seattle (mostly I was being a musical stalker, but in my defense I was also hungry and they make really good omelettes).
Some interesting cover choices, especially the Nick Cave one (which they’ve not previously done that I am aware of) and the awesome “Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” I can’t wait to hear this boot –surely someone was taping it?
AMENDED: Someone with too much time on their hands seems to have made up this appearance, but I am leaving up the good mp3s and we can all close our eyes and pretend it happened anyway.
SETLIST Happy Birthday(to guitarist Mike McCready’s new baby girl) I Don’t Wanna Grow Up(Tom Waits/Ramones cover) You’re True Can’t Keep cover/improv/new song? Gone Hide Your Love Away(Beatles cover) cover/improv/new song?(tag: Modern Girl/Sleater-Kinney) Porch Where The Wild Roses Grow(Nick Cave cover, duet with unknown female singer)
BONUS EAR CANDY Here are some other live versions of a few of these great songs; this mp3 of “You’re True” is one of my very favorite PJ boot songs ever:
Spring is finally on the verge of … springing here in Colorado. There are new layers of green outside my front door everytime I look, and I think my tulips (which I didn’t plant myself, but remain an annual treat from the previous green-thumbed owner) are poised to bloom any day. There’s also a gorgeous bush covered in breathtaking yellow flowers right outside my kitchen window, so I don’t even mind doing the dishes lately. Hooray for Spring, I’ve been color-starved and sunshine-starved, even though I try to make the best of it.
Side note: there is a fantastic/rotten new entry over at ThingsMyBoyfriendSays.com that I ain’t gonna post here but just made laugh for a solid minute or so…
But let’s just move it along, people. Here’s the music, with an appropriate first track for the revelling in the Spring sunshine.
Laissez Briller Le Soleil(“Let the sun shine”?) Les Boots Every once in a while on the music blogs that I regularly read, someone throws out a curveball that just catches you offgaurd in the most marvelous way. Aquarium Drunkard has a “French Freakbeat” series up now (parts one and two) of fuzzy, garage harmonies from Gallic groups of the Sixties. Info is scant, but apparently this is “a rare bootleg collection that explores mid 1960s mod-influenced psychedelia of French bands that were paying strict attention to their British brethren, most notably The Small Faces.” I love the way this sounds — it’s as if your little transistor radio suddenly picks up a station across the Atlantic with sounds that are vaguely familiar but altogether fresh. Grab the whole set. Soooo good, right up my alley.
No Pussy Blues Grinderman Following my post referencing the great Nick Cave tune (and the Pearl Jam cover of) “The Ship Song,” reader Joe recommended that I check out Cave’s new band with 3 of his Bad Seeds — Grinderman, saying it was “raw, dirty, superb!” Any song titled No Pussy Blues definitely tends towards the raw and fairly dirty; it’s also humorous as he details his efforts in vain to get the unnamed female to acquiesce in his growling, pointed storytelling. This is off their forthcoming 2007 self-titled release on Anti Records (US). Blistering.
Gospel The National Speaking of Nick Cave, the voice of Matt Berninger always reminds me a bit of Cave in its deep and dramatic resonation. The forthcoming 4th album from Brooklyn’s The National, Boxer (May 22, Beggars Banquet label) leaked its way onto the interwebby this weekend and I’ve been truly enjoying feeling my way through it. It’s a rich, melodic, gorgeous album with lyrics aching of romantic disillusionment and raw desire — I had a hard time picking just one track to share. This is an album that I really look forward to delving into and relishing on repeat; first impressions are very solid.
Never Learn Not To Love Beach Boys/Charles Manson So you all know that I enjoy enriching my brain with backstories and random little snippets of musical history that fall through the cracks. The Spinner blog has a fascinating little story on how the Golden State’s finest exports ended up recording the music of a psychotic murderer. Although the original writing credits of this song, which was first released as a b-side to cheery “Bluebirds Over The Mountain,” list only Dennis Wilson as the author, the truth would include a credit for the wild-eyed Chuck Manson as well for his earlier version — creepily entitled “Cease To Resist.” Who knew that underneath all that sunshine and chiming harmonies there was a secret more sinister.
Strawberry Street Jeff Buckley Oooh, and finally how about a b-side from my beloved Jeff Buckley? This is one that I’d never heard before, unearthed by the superb Sweet Oblivion blog and ripped directly from the vinyl single of the great song “Forget Her.” It was also a hidden track on the Australian edition of Grace. This song was written by Jeff before he moved to NYC in 1993, and it is Jeff at his most waily, electric, Led-Zeppelin-loving best.
And holy goodness (!!), I’ve been waiting for this news for a long time: The critically-acclaimed film festival favorite Jeff Buckley documentary Amazing Grace will finally be released by Columbia/Legacy on May 22 for purchase. I’ve heard nothing but revelatory raves about it but missed all screenings ever near me; add your name here to be updated on purchase information. I cannot wait to settle in to watch that one.
I’ve been pulling some songs together for a possible Glastonbury retrospective and smiled when I found a live version of Nick Cave‘s “Ship Song.” I used to have a cover of this by Pearl Jam on a mix tape that I made in 1995 of all the scorching shows from that tour.
To my unbounded joy, I was able to find it also on mp3, from their summer show at Red Rocks — I love impromptu covers that have that innocence to them, and this . . . well, this is just an enchanting few minutes.
The song is pretty off-the-cuff (Eddie acknowledges at the end, “Well, we need to work that one out one out a little bit”), but it was the only time they ever played it live, and I bask in the wavering simplicity of this moment. Combine it with the wistful, almost mythical lyrics and it is a song I’ve gotta listen to on repeat.
SHIP SONG By Nick Cave Come sail your ships around me and burn your bridges down We make a little history, baby Every time you come around
Come loose your dogs around me And let your hair hang down You’re a mystery to me Every time you come around
We talked about it all night long Define our moral ground But when I crawl into your arms Everything comes tumbling down . . .
Name: Heather Browne Location: Colorado, originally by way of California Giving context to the torrent since 2005.
"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel." —Hunter S. Thompson
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