I had a Nick Cave phase because: of course I had a Nick Cave phase!
I mean, can you listen to Nick Cave and—key caveat: providing you didn’t leap out of your chair to turn off that sound from the roiling deep—not keep listening to Nick Cave?
It was his track on the Until the End of the World soundtrack that got me, that bass drawl going on about blind pencil-sellers and dogs leaping under wheels and it was horrifying and amazing and who the fuck was the guy and why didn’t anyone tell me about him before?!
(I had that same reaction to finally listening to Patti Smith: Why the fuck didn’t anyone tell me about her before? Kiddies, life before cable and the internet was a vast radio wasteland for those of us out of reach of college stations.)
My first cd of his was Henry’s Dream, which contained the terrifying Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry. Oh, the narrator may be “reassuring” his son that amidst all sorts of mayhem (shots in necks, arterial blood spraying, etc.) that “Papa won’t leave you, boy”, but ain’t nothin’ reassuring about any of it:
Run Henry! Run!
I did learn about his previous life as singer in Birthday Party, but beyond that BATS! BATS! song, I didn’t really know much about them: my intensity for Cave burned out before I could trawl his backstory.
As an aside: Nick Cave seemed to be one of those working that masculine brutal/tender trope for which I am an endless sucker. I don’t really know if there’s any feminine equivalent: Patti Smith was never brutal. Chrissy Hynde, maybe? Tho’ she was more contemptuous than anything. Maybe some of the stuff coming out of the Riot Grrls scene, but even if that comes close, I don’t know that it’s the same.
In any case, it’s damned difficult to maintain: it seems you either move beyond it—Nick Cave, Elvis Costello—or you just age into weirdness (if you’re talented enough) or staleness (if you’re not. I don’t know that it’s always-only a young man’s game, but at some point it rends itself apart.
Anyway, what brought all of this on? A trippy Belle Waring thread at Crooked Timber, in which Saul posted this vid of a young Nick Cave, heroin-thin, prancing around in a loincloth fronting Birthday Party:
Holy mother of Jesus.
Yes, for those of you who might see this as pretentious or boring or melodramatic or repellent: I get it, I really do. There are all kinds of things which others’ find fascinatin’ that I think, Huh.
This ain’t one of them.
Repellent, I’ll give you. But mesmerizing, well goddamn, mesmerizing I’m taking for my own.