Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Song of the day

"We Call Upon The Author", by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. On the weekend, I bought the new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album, "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!". (Somebody tell me I wasn't wrong to not fork out the additional eight bucks for the "special limited edition bonus booklet" version.) I am half-way through my first listen. I have some reservations (nobody warned me that Nick Launay was once again behind the desk; I have my doubts whether either Cave or the Seeds are enhanced in any way by studio effectery (Launay has a track record in this regard: see also Midnight Oil's "10... 9... 8... etc" album, and the one he did with The Models)), but overall it would seem that they have pulled off a blinder. Look at all those words, mummy: Cave seems to have been recently afflicted by a second - or is it a third - wind. The language is pouring out of him on this album, much as it was on the magnificent "The Lyre of Orpheus / Abattoir Blues".

I should at this point say that I wasn't particularly excited by the Grinderman project for its own sake, as much as I was fascinated by how it might bleed into the Bad Seeds themselves. At this early stage, I am not disappointed. Even allowing for Launay's looping and enhancing, they are making one heck of an unholy racket.

Song structures are something that Cave has always seemed to have an almost unique feel for. He gets insufficient acclaim for this. Think of "The Mercy Seat", a song whose structure I like to think is old-fashioned (and perhaps it is): the story is told through ever-so-slightly-divergent repeating loops. You feel like it could go on forever and remain interesting and forward moving. And think also of the title track of "The Lyre of Orpheus": I have never before heard a song put together in quite the same way as this, and yet the Bad Seeds (and Cave) pull it off with effortless confidence, like an juggler with an unfeasible number of razor-sharp knives in the air, somehow bringing them down without losing any limbs. The pattern (or not) continues with "We Call Upon The Author", which adds to its structural elasticity some of the most bleakly funny lyrics this bleakly funny lyricist has ever committed to tape.

I also bought the new Magnetic Fields album, but we'll have to get to that later.