Archive for the ‘The Birthday Party’ Category

may2801SOUNDTRACK: NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS-“As I Sat Sadly By Her Side” (2001).

caveNick Hornby reviewed Cave’s album No More Shall We Part in may of 2001.  I had listened to the album a lot back then but hadn’t in a while.  I found that I enjoyed it just as much now as I did back then.  although I feel it suffers a bit from excess.  At 52 minutes, there’s a song or two too many.

But I was dismayed at the way Hornby dismissed this opening song.

“As i Sadly Sadly By Her Side” is a storytelling song with a repeated refrain.  While it is true that there is no chorus, there is certainly a catchy repeated moment.

The song starts with a terrific slow bass line.  It is staggered and smooth at the same time.  A pretty piano melody sprinkles through as he sings.

There is drama in the song and it slow grows more intense as the strings are added in.  Intense is a relative word to be sure, as the intensity goes from maybe 2 to 4 out of ten, but even that small increase does provide drama.

It is an intensely personal moment between two people–unlike just about any other song I’ve heard.

[READ: September 20, 2019] “Sweet Misery”

This essay is subtitled “The mellowing of Nick Cave.”  This was written in 2001.  Imagine what it would be called if it was written today.

The mellowing refers to his then new album No More Shall We Part which Hornby says is “in patches, so transcendentally beautiful that one can be forgiven a small spasm of impatience: if he had this in him, why did he waste all of those years shouting at people?”

Hornby begins by talking about the ubiquity of pop music in 2001.  How when he was fifteen it was hard to hear the music he liked.  But now (in 2001), if you’re fifteen you can hear it figuratively anywhere.  [In 2019, it is literally anywhere].

Cave’s records with The Birthday Party (in the later 1970s) were “a punk-inspired and self-consciously apocalyptic noise whose main purpose, apparently, was to terrify the audience into submission.” (more…)

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2012 saw the release of this very strange collaborative album.  Whether The Flaming Lips had entered the mainstream or if people who’d always liked them were now big stars or maybe they all just liked doing acid.  Whatever the case, The Lips worked with a vast array of famous (and less famous) people for this bizarre album.  Here it is 8 years later. Time to check in.

Nick Cave’s most recent music has been quiet pretty and tender.  It’s easy to forget that he has often been a wild man of Australian punk.  His Grinderman albums emphasized that noisy history of his and this song seems perfect for Cave.

In fact, this track seems like a song he could have released with the Birthday Party forty years ago. It’s abrasive and kind of rambling–although with more modern production and sounds. It also has a slow pummeling bass notes with lots of chaotic drumming.

Unlike most of the songs on the record which have falsetto vocals, Cave’s deep voice really stands out.  He is reciting a fairly crazy story of pools and chlorine and how you can touch him if you want.

Quintessential Cave mixed with a few Lips.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Strangers in Paradise XXV #7

Katchoo was falling off a cliff.  In the wide shot we see there is water down below (and a small boat).

She lands in the water and rockets down pretty far (some creepy eels greet her before she takes off back up to the surface).

The man on the boat tries to fend her off with a long pike, but he’s no match for Katchoo who avoids the gun shots until the boat takes off.

Back home, we see Francine and her (cool) Aunt Libby in some relative domestic happiness–Katchoo hasn’t warned her about he gunman yet.

Koo resists taking out the garbage. Francine asks, “when do you want to do it”  “Later when I grow up.”

When she puts the trash in the bin, she smells…something.  Which we see is a pile of cigarette butts and a shoe.  But she is called in before she sees what it is.

Katchoo goes to a small hotel.  There’s a man sleeping in the tub.  I’m unclear what that is meant to signify, but Katchoo leaves before he wakes up.

The book ends back home with Koo unable to sleep (she is reading I Hate Fairyland, by Skottie Young).  She heads downstairs (at 3AM) and sees a male shadow looking in their glass windows. Yipes!

Don’t mess with these cute kids, you hear me!

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hpl;oveSOUNDTRACK: PINKISH BLACK-“Razed to the Ground” (2013).

pinkishblackAfter playing No Age, Lars Gottrich came in to show what real heaviness is with a new song from Pinkish Black.  Unlike most of Lars’ songs, this was neither death- nor speed- metal.  Rather it has a very 80s goth sound.  But it’s more Birthday Party than Sisters of Mercy.

There’s no guitars, just loud drums (with a lot of cymbals), a pulsing bass keyboard riff and some spacey high keyboard notes thrown along the top of the song.  There are elements that I liked about the story.  However, the synths in the solo give it a very cheesy horror movie feel and I have to admit that although I like a lot of bands from the era, this feels like a pale imitation.

[READ: June 20, 2013] “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Whisperer in Darkness”

Both of these stories appeared in Michel Houellebecq’s H.P. Lovecraft book, but I wanted to treat them separately for ease of searching and discovery.

After my long history with Lovecraft and after reading Houellebecq’s book, I anticipated being blown away by these stories.  And so, with my expectations so high, I was naturally disappointed.  I was especially disappointed with how normal these stories seemed.  Houellebecq made me think the stories were practically non-narrative in form—that they eschewed all manner of conventional storytelling.  That his writing was so weird that no one would publish it.  But in these two stories everything seems completely normal.  Psychologically these stories are different, but aside from content, they are fairly conventional stories.

Maybe they aren’t mind blowing because they were written nearly 100 years ago and the entire world has changed drastically since then.  It may also be because I have read all of the derivatives of Lovecraft enough that there’s nothing new in his work.  And it may also be that in the past 80 years, we have thought of things that are much scarier than these, in part because of Lovecraft himself.  Or maybe I would have been into them a lot more had I read them when I was a teenager.

“The Call of Cthulhu.” (more…)

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Jonas from Invisible Guy contacted me about a project he’s working on.  I’m not quite the right fit for it, but I had to check out his site to see what he was all about.  As his About page explains; “This blog is generally a platform for unknown bands to get promoted and interviewed.”  That’s pretty awesome in itself.  But as I browsed the site, I saw that in his post Invisible Guy recommends: 80s Post-Punk – 1982 (Part II) he includes not only The Birthday Party but also The Virgin Prunes.  Much respect there (especially for someone who wasn’t alive when those records came out!).

But the bulk of his site is full of really obscure bands (lots of bands that I’ve never heard of).  He interviews band members (sometimes in Swedish!) and has quite an impressive list of publications that he’s worked for.

So head on over to Invsible Guy for a wonderful collection of punk and hardcore music as well as some iconic (and really obscure) new wave and post-punk tunes.  He’s also got some great stuff on death metal too.  Not bad for a site that’s only a few months old.  Invisible Guy has a lot of samples and videos as well as a bunch of streaming music from unreleased or just-released albums (like this demo from the Swedish band Regimen called Välkommen hem).

And here’s a video for the Swedish stoner metal band Skraeckoedlan.  The song is “Apple Trees” and no you can’t understsnad the words because they are in Swedish.  I love that.

It’s a great site.

[READ: June 15, 2012] “A Psychotronic Childhood”

The more I read Colson Whitehead, the more I like him, not just as a writer, but as a “person” (the person he presents to us anyhow.  Although I met him briefly at a convention and he was super friendly and very nice).  This essay shows that he and I occupied some of the same headspace when we were kids (we were born in the same year)—watching sci-fi and horror movies on Channel 7 & 11 after school and on the weekends.  Of course, I didn’t really get into horror movies until much later them him (his first time was when his parents took him to  a horror film in the theater at the age of 5).  FIVE!

These early horror movies really shaped his outlook.  He lists about 70 movies in this article, of which I have seen at least half (although more from MST3K than actually sitting through them unaccompanied) and his summaries about them (four or five parenthetical words) are apt and often hilarious:

  • Food of the Gods (giant chickens rain pecking doom on a small island)
  • Alien (an outbreak of tummy trouble among space miners)
  • Demon Seed (rom-com about a horny computer that wants to impregnate Julie Christie)
  • The Devil’s Run (A negligible and mind-numbing film, notable only for the utter ineptitude of its attempt to cash in on the brief occult-movie fad that followed Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist.

The Devil’s Run is the first movie he saw, back in 1975, in the theater.  He says that there was something good in it, that it really captured the element of terror when your loved one turns on you.  And he tapped into this for his novel Zone One.

Then he reflects back on 1981, when his family bought a VCR and he and his brother would head to Crazy Eddie (remember Crazy Eddie?) to rent 5 movies for the weekend (I didn’t even know they rented movies!).  The movies were inevitably 4 horror movies and one mainstream film.  And the family would gather by the TV and watch together.  How wholesome!  Except when you read what they were watching (I can’t IMAGINE my family watching these together when I was a kid–even now, Sarah hates horror films).   This is getting into the era of Friday the 13ths and Halloweens as well as classics like Terror Train, Prom Night, Slumber Party Massacre, Silent Night, Evil Night, Mother’s Day and My Bloody Valentine (“not even the holidays, hallmark or otherwise were safe”). (more…)

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tny 11.10.08 cvr.inddSOUNDTRACK: GRINDERMAN-Grinderman (2007).

grindermanNick Cave has been making interesting and varied music for decades.  From his original noisemakers The Birthday Party to his countless albums with The Bad Seeds, there isn’t really a style that Cave hasn’t explored.  In fact his last four albums with the Bad Seeds cover some vastly different terrain right there.

So, why, one wonders, does he need to create a side project?  I’m not sure if the project was his idea or for some of the Bad Seeds to get a chance to play without the others (the other three members of Grinderman are in the Bad Seeds), or if it was just a fun and loose way  to play some tunes, but regardless: with Nick singing, you’ve basically got a Bad Seeds project.

Nevertheless, this project experiments with music in a way that the Bad Seeds haven’t really, or for that matter, in a way that Cave hasn’t since The Birthday Party.  There is a lot of distorted/feedbacky guitar, and strange effects that fill these songs.  In fact, there is no acoustic instrument on this disc…not even Cave’s piano!

“Get It On” starts the record in a suitably raucous way: “I’ve got some words of wisdom. (He’s got some words of wisdom)”.  “GET IT ON! GET IT ON!” etc.  And “No Pussy Blues” is a wonderfully funny blues about, well, the title says it all.  I particularly like that he sings the verses of the song seemingly too long, so that they overlap the “But she didn’t want to” parts where the music changes at the end of the line.  “Depth Charge Ethel” is all chaos and noise and “ooh ooh” backing vocals.  And “When My Love Comes Down” and “Love Bomb” keep up the rocking, noisy experiment.

“Electric Alice” slows things down, but adds to the noise and distortion.  And “Go Tell the Women” is a very funny, borderline spoken-word piece: “We are scientists We do genetics We leave religion To the psychos and fanatics But we are tired We got nothing to believe in We are lost Go tell the women that we’re leaving.” The guitar is simple and plunky and might even come from something Tom Waits did, and it works perfectly.  “Man in the Moon” is a sad ballad, where you might expect the piano, but which keeps the electronics high.

“I Don’t Need You (To Set Me Free)” is the most Bad Seedsesque song of the bunch, and could easily have been on, well, any of his recent records.

I guess in answering my initial question, if there’s a reason to make this a side project release it is to let the Seeds have a lot of fun.  You can feel how loose this record is and tell that it was a blast to make.  Not that his Bad Seeds records are a tight ship of control (see the 15 minute “Babe, I’m on Fire” from Nocturama for an anything-but-tight ship).  This collection also really lets Warren Ellis shine.  I don’t know how much he contributes to the Seeds in general, but his work is all over this, and it’s a fun difference for Nick’s voice.

[READ: November 13, 2008] “Leopard”

Wells Tower is a name that you don’t easily forget. I had read a story by him in McSweeney’s and enjoyed it.  But I think his name stayed with me more than the story.  When I saw his name again, I was intrigued.  The first few paragraphs were also very intriguing so I read on.

The story starts with a youngish boy not wanting to go to school (in a very funny scene, his cold sore is described as a hamburger).  He finally convinces his mother to let him stay home.  But, unlike Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, the story takes a rather dark turn.

We learn about the youngish boy’s stepfather who is a tough disciplinarian and who expects hard work out of him.  He does the work but resents his stepfather greatly.

On this, his day off from school, the young boy tries to avoid his stepfather.  However, he is put to the task of getting the mail—half a mile down the driveway.  He tries to make a point and show up his stepfather by faking an accident in the driveway.  His plans go somewhat askew when it’s not his mother who pulls in the driveway, but a stranger.

The story, although dark, was enjoyable.  It won’t be hard to remember Wells Tower’s name, but I’ll keep an eye out for it in the future. This story also happened to be the second story I read that day (I had just finished the last few pages of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach) that mentioned splitting logs for the “wood burning furnace.”  Not exactly an unheard of activity, but not entirely common either.  What a weird coincidence.

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