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Saturday, 24 June 2017

I Felt Like A Vacuum Cleaner

The moment where the girl in the white dress appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, at Glastonbury back in 2013 is one of the greatest TV gig moments I've seen. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds had launched into a ten minute version of sex and murder fest Stagger Lee (sample line- 'just count the holes in his motherfucking head'). The band with beards, suit jackets and Chelsea boots, had locked into a killer groove. Nick, black trousers, mostly black floral shirt, blacker than black hair, had gone down to the barrier and was giving it the full foot-on-the-fence-while-growling-into-the-mic Nick Cave thing. At seven minutes forty six seconds she rises up from the throng, like a Victorian ghost, all in white, arm stretched out, full eye contact. Nick is singing about the devil and Stagger Lee is about to be taken down. Four holes in his motherfucking head. The bassline is thunderous, he is shrieking, the pair are still maintaining eye contact. The strange to-and-fro dance continues, sexual tension rising among thousands of people in broad daylight. Spontaneous gig theatre.

There are some Nick Cave songs which are as good as anything written and recorded in the 21st century (and 20th for that matter). This one from 2008 is a lyrical tour de force, laugh out loud funny and serious as fuck, Nick on his knees railing against his god, author and creator, howling for answers. There's a bizarre cast of characters, from the 'myxomatoid kids' in the first verse to a death in the second, causing him to shake his ' fists at the punishing rain'. This is one great line after another set against The Bad Seeds driving feedback and pummelling drums, occasionally breaking down into nothing but the noise of overloaded FX pedals and Nick looking for scissors.

'Everything is messed up around here
Everything is banal and jejeune
There's a planetary conspiracy
Against the likes of you and me
In this idiot constituency of the moon'

When he goes guruing down the street young people  want answers. Nick doesn't have them. he feels like a vacuum cleaner, a complete sucker.  There are slavering dogs and enormous encyclopaedic brains, third world poverty and a whole list of world issues to be answered for. Later on Doug turns up tapping at the window and offering a book of Holocaust poetry complete with pictures. There is a line about Nick down in his bolthole appalled at the publishing of 'another volume of unreconstructed rubbish'. Bukowski gets put down, the jerk. Prolix. Prolix. More scissors. Seriously, stunning stuff. Who else can do words this good?

We Call Upon The Author


drew said...

Great post SA.

The Swede said...

Cave played 'Stagger Lee' when he headlined Cambridge Folk Festival with the Dirty Three in 1999. The festival is a family friendly affair and Nick's expletive laden performance saw many kids whisked away by their parents towards the less threatening Loudon Wainwright who was playing on another stage.
I'd somehow never seen that clip before - absolutely extraordinary.

Swiss Adam said...

That sounds very funny Swede. Poor little mites!

C said...

Really compelling.
Where is that girl now? I'd love to hear her view of how it felt at that moment - although I think we can see it on her face...

TS - picturing the scene, hilarious!

TheRobster said...

Yep, that is an extraordinary moment. He's old enough to be her father, but you can see in her eyes exactly what she's feeling at that moment.

I love We Call Upon The Author. Pure lyrical genius, and brilliantly relayed by your good self, Adam.

charity chic said...

Boyfriend - "well that's the last time you're going on my shoulders"

Anonymous said...

The boyfriend is the unseen hero in the clip. Facilitator of the whole shebang.
Swiss Adam

JTFL said...

Always been a little afraid of Nick Cave since I saw him get super hostile once (long story), but this is a very strong song, and one of my favorites from his more recent days. Didn't know about the Glastonbury happening - good story!

Anonymous said...

Patron saint of Aus.

Great post.

JC said...

Robster's on-and-off series on Nick Cave has featured some of the best ever reviews and writing out there; all I'll say Adam is that this is up there with them.

Wonderful stuff. I'd have, I reckon, six Bad Seeds/Grinderman/stripped-down Nick Cave shows in my all time top 10 gigs.

All the more sad that I just cant bring myself to pay silly money to see him a 12,000 capacity venue in Glasgow later this year. First time in quarter of a century that I'll have missed out when he's in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same about seeing him at Manchester arena JC. Not the right venue and too expensive
Swiss Adam