One More time with feeling; Review of Nick Cave documentary


Don’t get me wrong I was willing, urging this film to be magnificent.  But will as I did, it isn’t.

In fact it’s like the ultimate home movie utilising the finest cinematographers money can buy (Benoit Debie and Alwin H Kuchler – I suspect one was on 2D duty, one on 3D – I saw it in 2D).

The back story is important here.  The documentary was commissioned to film the making of Cave’s brilliant new album, Skeleton Tree, (I know it’s brilliant because it was played in full on its release 11 hours ago on the BBC 6 Music Mary Anne Hobbs Show).  What nobody predicted was that it would become a film about grief because, as I understand the timing, no sooner had filming started than Cave’s 15 year old son, Arthur, died in a climbing accident.  The chronology of this is not clear in the film’s narrative.

When I read of Arthur’s death I was devastated for Nick Cave (I truly love the man) and so I expected the film to be an emotional roller coaster.

It isn’t.

Instead what we get is a strung out self indulgence piece.  And I don’t mean Nick Cave’s self indulgence, I mean Andrew Dominik’s. (Director of Cave-soundtracked, and awesome, movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.)

It is sumptuously photographed and of course the music is stellar but the glue that binds it, the storyline, is fragmented, dull and seemingly endless.  OK, I accept Cave is a private man and he doesn’t want to spill his grief out on camera, his wife too, but when he describes breaking down in the arms of a virtual stranger on the High Street in Brighton we get a glimpse of what he is going through.

But that’s it.

My companion fell asleep several times.  Thanks partly to the heat in The Filmhouse, Edinburgh where we saw this.  Extremely uncomfortable.  Did they not know they had a sell out audience?

I don’t like being negative about a film of this nature but if Dominik had an Executive Producer with a firmer hand we might have seen a more pared down and rewarding experience.

If you want to see Nick Cave at his very best on film watch the far superior 20,000 Days on Earth, directed by Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth.  It’s magnificent.

 

Simply the best gigs I’ve ever been privileged to attend


anohni-park-avenue-armory-17.jpg

My pal Pete, and I, were discussing our all time favourite gigs after we gushed about Anohni on Wednesday night at the Edinburgh Festival.

He’s a massive James and Rolling Stones fan and said it even beat James.  I was more cautious.  Whilst I gave it a full five star rating and said it was in my all time top ten it’s had me thinking all week.

So with much consideration here are my all time top 20 favourite gigs.  Each in different ways was a five star performance.

In no particular order, because that’s too hard.

The Clash.  Edinburgh Playhouse. (Combat Rock tour)

Sufjan Stevens. Edinburgh Playhouse. (Carrie and Low tour Edinburgh International Festival – simply the best sound I have ever heard)

Anonhi. Edinburgh Playhouse. (Edinburgh Festival, this week)

Siouxsie and The Banshees. Edinburgh Playhouse. (around the time of Israel)

Kraftwerk. Edinburgh PLayhouse (front Row.  Computer Love Tour)

Kraftwerk.  King Tuts Stage (T in the Park – 3D tour)

Bill Nelson. The Nite Club (Upstairs from Edinburgh Playhouse)

Faust.  The Citrus Club (original one in Edinburgh Grassmarket (set fire to the stage with Petrol)

Simple Minds (supported by Positive Noise).  Tiffany’s, Glasgow.

Simple Minds.  Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow.( 5 x 4 Tour)

Chic. West Holts Dance Stage (Glastonbury)

Massive Attack. The Other Stage (Glastonbury)

Nic Cave and the Bad Seeds. The Pyramid Stage (Glastonbury)

John Grant. The Park Stage (Glastonbury)

Savages.  Williams Green Stage (Glastonbury)

Melody Gardot.  Voodoo Rooms

Emma Pollock. Voodoo Rooms

Laurie Anderson.  Queens Hall (possibly the O Superman tour, certainly around that time)

King Creosote performing From Scotland with Love at  The Hub Edinburgh (Edinburgh Festival)

Frank Sinatra.  Ibrox Park (Glasgow 1999 headline spot).  I’ll never forget him say that “I never thought I’d hear every single member of an Ibrox crowd cheer a Catholic”

One major point to note.  Only one single stadium gig.  The last one.

Some of the greatest were in the smallest venues; Pollock, Gardot, Bill Nelson, Faust.

Who did I never see that I wished I had?  Magazine, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, Steely Dan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Belle and Sebastian, Cocteau Twins, Can, Velvet Underground.

 

The seven day music challenge.


My pal, Peter Flockhart, challenged me to find seven songs that would sum up my musical taste, but I got a little carried away.  Thought you might like to see them all in the one place as we reach day 30.  They are in no particular order and, surprisingly, only one artist appears twice.  Tom Waits.

Day 30

Day 29

Day 28

Day 27

Day 26

Day 25

Day 24

Day 23

Day 22

Day 21

Day 20

Day 19

Day 18

Day 17

Day 16

Day 15

Day 14

Day 13

Day12

Day 11

Day 10

Day 9

Day 8

Day 7

Day 6

Day 5

Day 4

Day 3

Day 2

Day 1

Palaces of Montezuma. By Grinderman


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That lyric throws up a visceral mental image, doesn’t it?

For me it’s the couplet that stops me, breathless, every time I hear it.

Its sheer audacity, but also its incredible writing skill, cannot be ignored.

First, the rhyme. JFK and negligee.

How eloquent.

Three syllables each.

In perfect cadence.

Second, the layer upon layer of meaning as diaphanous as the lyrical garment they’re wrapped in.

We all know what he’s talking about.

We all know the accusation. But he doesn’t make it. He simply uses ten words to summarise the scandal of the last century

It’s completely epic.

And it demonstrates what Google has been saying for some time now. Great writing gets noticed, gets attention, gets authority.

I concur.

Now hear it.

20,000 days on Earth; a review.


nick-cave-tom-oldham

Nick Cave is a very special musician.  In fact musician may be the wrong descriptor.

He’s a very special writer that specialises in music.  He has Warren Ellis and his many collaborators to dial up the music side of the equation.

in this documentary, that looks like a movie, that, yes, he co-wrote, you find yourself immersed in the mind of a genius for an hour and  a half as he discusses his life, his loves, his inspirations and his deep internal psychology in something approaching forensic detail.

He is a very beautiful man.

He talks painfully honestly at times about everything that is true to him.  His ‘muse’ – his wife Susie who lies, back turned to camera in bed with him as the film opens.

We see half glimpses, stolen moments of her off and on through the film but little more.

We see a  photo of her projected on the wall of his archivist’s office.

She is as beautiful as he is.

Later, we see Cave guzzle pizza with their twin sons, arm around the shoulder of one of them, devoid of comment/emotion, almost voyeuristically.  It also spells L.O.V.E.

We see him kiss Warren Ellis full square on the lips as he visits his musical ‘muse’ on the occasion of a casual lunch of eels in black pasta.

More love.

Cave carries an aura of love around with him. Yet he’s often labelled with hate (partly because of the baggage The Birthday Party have burdened him with.)

We see him in the recording studio.

Gold dust. (Watching drummer Thomas Wydler as he twitches and mouths the rhythms is mesmeric.)

We see him crafting lyrics.

Gold dust.  (His notebooks are works of art in their own right.)

We see him performing live.

Now, this is the thing.  Anyone who has been to a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds gig knows that no band on earth put in the same level of emotional comitment to their music;  (perhaps with the exception of his faux-misogyny project Grinderman) Ellis all crazy violin fury, Cave all emotional connection.

It’s this latter point that made the movie for me.  He talks about how he ensnares individual audience members and then demonstrates it with a live performance of Higgs Boson Blues that reduced his female ‘victim’ to tears.

Me too.  It was all too much.  All too emotionally engrossing.

And then there’s the craft…the soundtrack (obviously) the direction and the cinematography are all sublime.  A special shout has to go for Editor Jonathan Amos.

And the cameos; Kylie, Ray Winstone and Blixa Bargeld.

I’m left with a tantalising question. Is this the greatest film ever made about music?  I think it has claims on that.  Notwithstanding School of Rock.

Nick Cave.  {I love you man.)

Grinderman


The werewolf

I had the great pleasure of seeing Grinderman live on Tuesday night at the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow.  Nick Cave was electrifying, Warren Ellis insane and the “other two” held it all together with aplomb.  It is a unique experience (and my first) watching and listening to Nick Cave in action.  He has an intensity that I’ve never seen any act match in my history of gig going and Warren Ellis as his stooge is quite awe inspiring.  At one stage Ellis was smashing, and I mean utterly battering the fucking life out of, a Hi hat with a pair of marracas that looked life threatening to the front row of the audience.

So lupine is Cave’s performance that you expect him to gorge on the flesh of one of the few female members of the audience at any point in the show.  Howls and roars whilst looking for the moon through the Barrowland’s hallowed ceiling are frequent.  He was honoured to play here as one of his legends, the (not so sensation in my view) Alex Harvey had strode these boards in his youth.  Cave is in his 50’s now, but acts as though he is in his 20s.

Grinderman’s songs are tongue in cheek misogynistic maelstroms.  Women are disparaged, objectified, lusted after, loved, hated, disparaged; you name it.  This is not balladry this is death metal on acid.  But, as I say, it’s tongue in cheek.  It’s full of humour and it’s priceless.  No pussy Blues, an anguished cry for some pussy action despite every form of wooing known to man sums the band up and it was performed brilliantly.  The highlight of the night for me though was the eponymous Grinderman that echoed Jim Morrison set to a hypnotic bass and drum rumble that could easily have been the Doors.

It was wonderful, loud, musical extremism that had my ears tingling with Ttinitus well into the morning hours.

Supreme.