Tag Archives: Nick Cave

…Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Stockholm ruled.

While following his career from the 70´s and onward, I do think that I know a thing or two about the art of Nick Cave. From the early attempts through the barely contained chaos of The Birthday Party, Nick Cave has forged an impressive artistic arch crafted from a few basic ingredients. One of them being the consistenly wonderful band “The Bad Seeds”, which has always been the coolest group of musicians around. While the Seeds has seen significant changes in personel through the years, they are still a peerless collective of contemporary players doing what they do best. The loss of Blixa Bargeld was hard, but not in any way detrimental to the overall sound. The change of artistic muse from Mick Harvey to Warren Ellis made things different but not necessarily worse. I´ve never ever seen anyone other than Ellis play the violin like Jimi Hendrix played the guitar.

Following a long series of extremely good and well crafted albums, I thought Nick Cave had a dip in production quality from 2001´s “No more shall we part” to 2008´s “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”. “Push the sky away” from 2013 re-established the earlier focus and the songwriting continued to evolve. A truly remarkable album again centering Cave on the contemporary musical scene. The intensity of these songs made the follow-up “Skeleton Tree” initially feel a bit weak, at least to my ears during the first probably somewhat unfocused listenings. But this is definitely an album that grows on you, and is by now one of my absolute favourites by Cave.

The concert at Globen Arena in Stockholm on the 18th of October was my third time seeing Nick Cave live, but the first one backed by the Bad Seeds. And what a concert it was! A lot of the songs played was of course from the two latest albums, but here in even more beautiful and moving form. Nick singing extremely well and the band being as precise as only the Bad Seeds can be, going from beautiful piano balladry to absolute mayhem at the blink of an eye. Great versions of many of the old classics was also generously spread through the show – “From her to eternity”, “Tupelo”, “The ship song”, “The weeping song”, “The mercy seat”, “Red right hand” and more.

After finishing the show and being enthusiastically clapped in again, the band performed a scorching version of “Stagger Lee” that will not be easily forgotten. When the concert sadly had to end it was with a majestic final encore of “Push the sky away”, sung by Cave surrounded on the stage by at least a hundred audience members. I found it impossible not to walk away with a huge smile on my face. Truly a night to remember.

Advertisements

…2016 w 24 – Album of the week is “Pop Crimes” by Rowland S. Howard.

Rowland S HowardWithout a doubt one of the most influential guitarists of our time, Rowland S Howard started his career in Melbourne, Australia as part of the nascent punk scene with his group The Young Charlatans. Writing what some consider his most well-known song “Shivers” as a mere 16-year old, he became one of the formative members of legendary band The Birthday Party, as they morphed from their earlier incarnation as The Boys Next Door. While Howard wanted to do the vocals himself, Nick Cave pulled rank as the singer of the group and did his own version. Originally thought out as a song about the strongly felt but rapidly changing and risible feelings of emotionally instable teenagers, it was initially banned from air-play because of the mention of suicide in the lyrics. Later it became a strange and uncharacteristic hit from a band that went on to alienate everyone looking for easy pop.

 

Moving from Australia to London, The Birthday Party developed into one of the most important bands of the post-punk movement, with an intensity and aggression still unsurpassed. The extremely original guitar sound that Howard developed during this period, partly based on the MXR Blue Box effects pedal, had never been heard before and was in some ways a perfect foil to Nick Caves powerful vocals. After moving to Berlin, The Birthday Party gradually turned into a vehicle for the ideas of singer Cave, and the group imploded in 1983. The split gave birth to Crime and the City Solution, fronted by Howard, as well as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Superb live work from both bands feature in Wim Wenders´ classic movie “Wings of Desire”. Such a perfect rendition of Howard´s stage presence and Nick Cave´s intensity, backed by Blixa Bargeld and genius multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey.

 

 

While The Bad Seeds was and still is extremely successful, Howard´s bands (including These Immortal Souls) largely remained a concern for the initiated. Finally taking the step from groups to a solo career, Howard released his first own record with 1999´s “Teenage Snuff Film”, recorded with old comrade Mick Harvey. An immensely enjoyable album of high-quality songs with the trade-mark Rowland S Howard guitar sound and his droll, intelligent and humorous lyrics.

 

 

After a hard life of substance abuse Howard was left suffering from hepatitis C, ultimately developing into liver cancer. The recording of “Pop Crimes” proved to be his last, and Rowland S Howard passed away in December 2009, some two months after the release of the album, still waiting for the liver transplant he so desperately needed.

This is one of those great records that fairly few has heard of. It´s reach goes from the euphoric pop of starter “(I know) A girl called Jonny” to the intensely emotional end-of-relation chronicle “Shut you down”. Title track “Pop crimes” perfectly showcases his guitar technique, expressive but still somehow restrained. All about heart and soul over technique. Closer “The golden age of bloodshed” is just so good and one of my favourite songs of the year.

Although aged beyond his years by hard living and disease, Howard still kept his impeccably elegant airs. Dark suit and white shirt, pale chiselled features, black crop of hair and the obligatory cigarette hanging from his red lips. Staggering across the stage while yanking the whammy bar of his trusted Fender Jaguar, face enveloped by a cloud of cigarette smoke. A rock star look to beat all other rock star looks.

I think it´s absolutely great that he got to end his career with a work like this. The product of a rare and singular mind fully exploring his particular brand of genius. Great songwriting, lyrically vital and with guitar playing out of this world. Please listen to this, and if your appetite is whetted watch the “Autoluminescent” documentary that´s available on DVD. They don´t make them like this anymore. Respect, and thanks for all the music.