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Clip: Nick Cave

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  • Carl Z.
    Making music has been a freeing experience for
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 9, 2007

      Making music has been a freeing experience for post-punker Cave

      By Bob Gendron
      Special to the Tribune
      Published April 9, 2007

      Distinguished by a brooding baritone, wedded to a literary frankness
      and captivated by the Southern Gothic, Nick Cave is the musical
      equivalent of a possessed preacher. The Australian native, 49,is also
      a visionary songwriter and post-punk icon.

      "Nick Cave is a pure expression of life. He is a force of nature,"
      says Ron Whitehead, a Nobel Prize-nominated and award-winning poet,
      publisher, professor and editor who has collaborated with
      contemporaries such as Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo. "Allen Ginsberg told
      me time and again, 'Be candid. There's not enough candor in the

      " Whitehead says. "Nick Cave is brutally honest."

      Whitehead isn't alone in his admiration. Johnny Cash, Pearl Jam and
      Metallica have covered Cave's tunes. Critics and peers have showered
      him with praise and awards. Theologians have noted biblical parallels
      in his songs.

      The son of an English teacher and a librarian, Cave has exercised his
      literary acumen via film, book and music releases. Having initially
      recorded during the early '80s with noise rockers the Birthday Party
      before blossoming with the Bad Seeds, he is equally proficient in
      gristly murder ballads and gospel-steeped chamber pop. His obsession
      with age-old themes -- sin, temptation, seduction, love, violence,
      death -- bears a relevancy that's both ancient and modern. Cave's
      latest band, Grinderman, whose self-titled debut is out Tuesday, adds
      to this creative lexicon.

      Getting down and dirty

      Named after a John Lee Hooker song, Grinderman sees Cave getting down
      and dirty with three Bad Seeds mates. Replete with primal blues,
      violin loops, fuzz-churned chords and howling cadences, the quartet's
      spunky album marks several departures for Cave in that he played
      guitar and hashed out material with a smaller band. Addressing
      restlessness, rejection and modern science, "Grinderman" updates the
      Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.""One of the underlying
      things on the record is a basic frustration at not being able to have
      any impact on the events of the world as a citizen," says Cave, who
      resides in England. "No matter what you do, no matter how the evidence
      mounts to the contrary, the whole thing just rolls on anyway. There
      doesn't really seem to be anything you can do about that. It's social
      impotence, political impotence."

      "Disconnectedness as well, in relationships between men and women, in
      relationships in the world around you," adds Grinderman drummer Jim
      Sclavunos, conscious of the sexual overtones in songs such as "Depth
      Charge Ethel." And while many libido-obsessed Baby Boomers are
      latching onto Viagra for assistance, Cave vented his urges by turning
      to music.

      "As a 49-year-old, sex is pretty much in your thoughts all the time,"
      he says. "A lot of people keep saying ["Grinderman"] is a young
      person's record, but I don't find that at all."

      Bigger overseas

      Another of these topics is the empty promise of marketplace messiahs.
      "I think that comes from being older too," Cave says. "For initially
      making music that was punk rock music, which was certainly an attempt
      at some sort of rebellion against the consumer society, there was
      something with punk where money was an embarrassment. Over the last 20
      or 30 years, that's changed considerably."

      The result -- a culture in which reality television, overpolished
      imagery and music-sponsored advertisements are all the rage -- doesn't
      bode well for artists such as Cave, who has always been bigger
      overseas and hasn't toured America in nearly four years.

      "There's such a barrage of bands in the States," says Sclavunos, a New
      Yorker. "People tend to be overtly competitive in music sometimes, and
      I don't think we ever want to lower ourselves to be a competitor. It's
      not a contest. That might put us at a disadvantage in such a
      market-oriented place as America."

      Bill Bentley, Cave's publicist when he was signed to Warner Brothers,
      believes the singer is too direct for mainstream tastes. "Nick Cave's
      music appealed to a devoted audience in America, and those that
      followed him were as excited as any fans I've seen. But the themes of
      Cave's music were possibly too strong and often dark for anything like
      mass appeal. It came down to the fact that his music just wasn't
      something that Americans could handle on a large scale."

      Cave agrees. "I think at some point we felt that we gave the States a
      shot. We did the things we were encouraged to do by the record
      company, and we got a certain audience. I'm happy to do whatever to
      make our records more successful as long as I don't have to demean

      At this point, he doesn't need to. While Cave insists that his recess
      from the United States is a matter of scheduling conflicts, he admits
      that he no longer struggles with issues of stature and perception.

      "I feel that any impact that I'm going to make on the world has been
      made. This is an enormously freeing thing for me."
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