Hello, my friends, old and new! The last few days I'm down with a cold, but that didn't stop me from writing today's story. Here we go!
Before the Nick Cave countdown continues, however, let's begin with our bonus track, from one of the soundtracks that Cave wrote in his long and illustrious career. In 2014, an interesting film starring Viggo Mortensen was released, called Loin Des Hommes / Far from Men. The film score was by Nick Cave and his writing partner Warren Ellis and was one of their most intriguing scores. Here's part of the soundtrack:
At #25 on our countdown, we find a song from the Bad Seeds album, Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus (2004). Full-tilt gospel punk - Cave, doing his best blood-and-thunder prophet, exhorts us to "Praise Him a little bit more."
Drummer Jim Sclavunos' aggressive, propulsive kit work is the bedrock of this set. It and Mick Harvey's storm-squall guitar playing shake things loose on Get Ready for Love, which opens the album. As Cave goes right for God in the refrain - "get ready for love" - in the maelstrom, a gospel choir roaring "praise Him" responds. His tense, ambivalent obsession with theology is pervasive; he mocks the Western perception of God in the heavens yet seeks the mystery of His nature. That he does so while careening through a wall of noisy rock damage is simply stunning. It leaves the listener revved up and off-center for what comes next.
This is what Jim Sclavunos, the drummer of The Bad Seeds, as well as Grinderman, has to say:
“In my book, the only thing that beats playing on Nick's songs is getting to co-write with him. Get Ready For Love was one of the first instances where I got to share in that process. Nick, Warren [Ellis], Martyn [Casey] and I were in a modest studio in Paris, working on a couple of songs that we recorded for Marianne Faithfull's album Before The Poison. We had some spare studio time and began jamming, just to see what came up. Nick can be quite clever at devising impromptu lyrics, which helps move things along: it spurs the band on and handily lends an immediate shape and a sense of direction to an improvisation. After considerable honing and finessing, a few numbers written this way ended up on the album, including Nature Boy and Lyre Of Orpheus; but the one I'm particularly partial to is Get Ready For Love. It's the most aggressive up-tempo opening track salvo that has appeared on a Bad Seeds album since The Mercy Seat kick-started Tender Prey. From my perspective, Get Ready For Love was a clarion call announcing a new chapter in the ongoing evolution of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. It was one of the first songs written together by Nick, Warren, Martyn and I, giving a vague hint of what was to come with Grinderman."
Here it is:
This is a live version at St. Lukes, London, in 2008:
At #24 is The Hammer Song, found on 1990's The Good Son. Not to be confused with the Alex Harvey cover on Kicking Against The Pricks, this Southern Gothic yarn finds Cave's narrator tormented by visions and guilt in the wilderness, while Mick Harvey's vibraphone punches through the melodramatic arrangements.
The Hammer Song is a manic, pulsating song that fights the woozy mood this album retains, it truly prevails at providing The Good Son with a new sight of imagery and atmosphere. Nick Cave sounds downright angry on this track and is a markedly exhilarating experience, to say the least.
Film director Tom DiCillo is a big fan of the song. This is what he has to say about it:
"The Hammer Song has this very basic riff that just keeps repeating. But this little groove has enough interest and complexity that it can carry itself almost forever. And the more it goes on, the more I fall into the intense emotion of what that song is about. The Good Son was the album a lot of people who wanted to maintain The Birthday Party idea of Nick looked at askance. I was going to direct a video for it, and Nick told me one of its greatest influences was Burt Bacharach. But with that Nick view of the world, which is a little different to Do You Know the Way To San José! The Hammer Song has a bit of both - it's more ballad-like, then switches to this powerful crunch. And ultimately it comes down to Nick's voice and performance."
"He said to me once that he had the greatest admiration and awe for actors [Cave has acted in a number of films, including DiCillo’s 1991 movie Johnny Suede]. I think he acts with his voice. And if he was faking, you'd hear it. I saw him once where he started a song alone at the piano, stopped because something was off, walked around, then started again. And he found what he thought was missing. That's ballsy. He walks that line between abandon and absolute control. It takes tremendous courage to just go into areas that interest you and not worry."
Here it is:
Since we've mentioned it, as an extra, here's the song with the same title, the Alex Harvey cover on Kicking Against The Pricks:
At #23 is a song from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' latest album, Skeleton Tree (2016). Skeleton Tree's drones and jitters offer no moments of release. The skies, seas, and mermaids that previously dominated Cave's thoughts are still very much present here. But on the opening song, Jesus Alone, he's wading deeper into the chop, the safety of the shoreline fading further out of view as he gets swept up by pattering drum drifts, humming organs, and swelling orchestration. The song was among the first Cave wrote for the record, yet its opening image - "You fell from the sky, crash-landed in a field near the River Adur" - feels unbearably prescient. (In July 2015, Cave's 15-year-old son, Arthur, died when he accidentally fell from a cliff near the family's current home in Brighton, England. The writing and recording of Skeleton Tree had commenced before the tragic incident, but the album was completed in its aftermath, and its specter hangs over it like a black fog.) It isn't so much about the finality of death as the ambiguity of the afterlife: Cave's orator welcomes a litany of souls into purgatory, but his stern proclamation - "With my voice, I am calling you" - makes it unclear whether they'll be redeemed in heaven or damned to hell.
This is a live version at the Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, Australia, in 2017:
At #22 is a song called Hallelujah, from the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' album, No More Shall We Part (2001). It's the hypnotic melody, the gorgeous atmosphere, the sardonic lyrics, and the enthralling vocals that make this a phenomenal song.
If this album is about anything, it is about love's ability to survive in the world. It is examined concretely and abstractly; to the point where it meditates on this theme even cinematically. In this way, Cave touches the heart in the same way Andrei Tarkovsky's films Stalker and The Sacrifice, and Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire do. There is powerful emotion here, spiritual, psychological, and romantic, without a hint of the sentimentality that would make it false. As both a singer and a songwriter, Cave's work has been transformed into something so full of depth, color, and dimension that there is simply no one except his mentors working on this level in popular music.
The songs plumb the depths of blues, yet contain glissando and crescendos from the orchestral music of composers such as Fartein Valen and Olivier Messiaen. A listen to Hallelujah will attest that it is merely one color on a musical palette that is more expansive now than at any time in the band's history.
Here it is:
This is a live version at Le Transbordeur (Lyon, France) in 2001:
Finally for today, at #21, is Higgs Boson Blues, from the album Push the Sky Away (2103). Higgs Boson Blues, the set's longest cut, uses the drum kit and electric guitars in a long, formless blues number that displays Cave in near rant mode; this track name-checks both Robert Johnson and the devil and references the famous story of Johnson at the crossroads. One of Cave's lyrically dense story songs, this is a dark anthem, possibly a hipster's last lament, but is also not without an element of humor; his black humor is evident inside sociological observations with Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana as characters.
Higgs Boson Blues begins as a solitary 3 a.m. strum in the vein of Neil Young's On the Beach but, over seven writhing minutes, ends up traversing the entirety of modern history, from "the missionary with his smallpox and flu" to the birth of the Devil's music to the anticipated death of a certain teen-pop starlet who "floats in a swimming pool."
Higgs Boson Blues is named for the elementary particle whose discovery 5 years ago was hailed as the most significant breakthrough in contemporary physics, one that essentially provides the missing piece in explaining the structure of our entire universe. But its discovery after 50 years of intense research has also led to something of an existential crisis among physicists, who are now left with no theory to prove, and asking themselves, "What now?" One can imagine Nick Cave asking himself the same question as he entered his fourth decade fronting a deviant rock band that had seemingly mined every last shade of noir. But in this album's quietly defiant title-track denouement, he finds a renewed mission statement: "If you got everything and you don't want no more/ You've got to just keep on pushing, keep on pushing/ Push the sky away." Because when you can't see the sky, you can't see your limits.
Here is Higgs Boson Blues:
This is a live version at PBS' Austin City Limits:
Now, let's continue with last week's statistics; after hitting a low point last week, this week's visits had an impressive increase of 32,3%. As far as the stories were concerned, Melina Mercouri was very successful, while last week's Nick Cave did well. Marilyn Monroe and George Maharis are still being read, while Freddie Jackson did even better than these, landing at this week's second place, behind Melina. Between last week's Nick Cave and George Maharis, at 4th place, we find the first part of an early-February story, concerning seven gay-themed movies from 2017.
May I remind you, if you like good Soul music, visit the story called Motown Countdown, here: Link which has the details on how to vote for our upcoming Motown Countdown. There is still time to vote. I already have three sets of votes and I expect at least two more. I hope that you'll pleasantly surprise me with even more than that...
As far as countries are concerned, the United States and Greece were the big winners of the week, while Australia, Brazil, and Spain also had a good week. France, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Cyprus, South Africa, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates have experienced drops, while Canada, Germany, Russia, and Italy kept their percentages more or less the same.
Here are this week's Top 10 countries:
1. the United States
3. the United Kingdom
10. South Africa
Here are the other countries that graced us with their presence since our last statistics (alphabetically): Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Austria, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Beliz, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar (Burma), the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Turks & Caicos Islands, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Happy to have you all!
And here's the all-time Top 10:
1. the United States = 26.1%
2. France = 25.1%
3. the United Kingdom = 13.5%
4. Greece = 6.6%
5. Russia = 2.6%
6. Germany = 1.7%
7. Canada = 1.44%
8. Italy = 1.23%
9. Turkey = 1.06%
10. Cyprus = 0.91%
That's all for today, folks. Till the next one!