Oh My Lord


This is a master lesson in dramatic timing. Nobody tells a dramatic narrative like Nick Cave does. He starts with a whisper and builds, over more than seven minutes, to a devastating climax. He’s telling a very modern story about scandal, persecution and paranoia, but with clear roots in literary tradition that goes back centuries. Cave is one of our most literate rock star laureates, known to pay homage to Homer and the ancient Greeks. Nick Cave puts rock music at the exact intersection of theatre, poetry and folk tradition, and that makes him among the most thought provoking artists working today, most certainly one who has transcended the limitations of genre. The fall from grace is a narrative arc as old as literature and eternally popular, and Cave has always found it fascinating. He updates it here with telephones and paparazzi; the implication is that the public humiliation that modern media has made possible is its own inferno, a brand new circle of hell reserved for those who’ve sinned in the public eye. We’ve certainly seen it play out, this public flogging, and it is very much a horror show. We’ve seen people literally die from too much public opinion. We can’t have executions in the town square anymore or put adulterers in stocks, but we can watch our fallen stars get broken down psychologically until they’re pathetic husks of themselves, or dead. It’s a blood sport for a new generation, and it’s going to grow its own body of literature to explain, rationalize, ennoble, memorialize, and decry. This phenomenon of gawking at the famous when they’re at their lowest – think of Britney Spears with her shaved head and umbrella, Amy Winehouse running through Camden weeping and bloody, Michael Jackson at pretty much any point in his final 20 or so years on earth… Put this phenomenon in historical context, put it in literary context. It’s the eternal entertainment value of human tragedy, it’s our thirst for violence, it’s the mighty getting their comeuppance for being who they are. It’s culture.

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