Music reviews and views
Terry Gross interviewed rock musician Nick Cave on Fresh Air after he had released his superlative, not-a-weak-track-in-the-mix 2008 album, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (Cave likens rock&roll artists to comic-book heroes, perhaps accounting for his love of exclamation points.) With his deep voice, brooding subject matter, and often-explicit lyrics, it’s easy to typecast Nick Cave or dismiss his work as dark or depressing. (The great Jim Morrison is Cave’s most obvious musical ancestor.) Yet he is one of the most brilliant musicians operating in rock & roll, and a true poet as well. He mines Christianity, Greek mythology, and pop culture, translating the results into songs which encounter elemental urges with surprise and abandon. His lyrics are fresh, funny, and clever, the arrangements brash, an apt backdrop for the singer’s urgent quest for truth. In the interview, Cave expressed alarm that people would pigehonhole his works as described above, and no wonder: listen to “Nature Boy” or the gospel-tinged “O Children,” (both from the also-excellent Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus) and you’ll hear an exuberance and a faith in life more authentic than any market-tested “uplift” anthem. (Indeed, “Nature Boy,” with its long, breathless lines and hoarse, declamatory vocals, resembles no one so much as the young Bruce Springsteen.)
Nick Cave has written a novel or two as well and makes for a very articulate interview subject. When he picks up his electric guitar, he tells us, “the whole history of rock & roll is right there.” Keep strumming that electric lyre, Nick.