The internet hive mind has rarely produced anything as brilliant as turning Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand into a Dr. Seuss book. Mashups are usually bad, stupid, the wishful fruit of deranged fans trying to fit disparate interests into one box. But it turns out that Nick Cave was born to write children’s books, though he may not yet know it himself. His narratives may be of a kind with the Brothers Grimm, ominous and filled with bloody reminders of just how dark and full of terrors the human soul can be. His lively wordplay and frequent references to bunnies would readily appeal to young Little Golden Book readers, provided they’re the sort of children who rarely leave the attic. Cave lifted the inspiration for this particular meditation on the nature of God from Dante’s Inferno. In that reference the red right hand is the vengeful hand of an angry God, but could just as easily be the calling card of a villain who would be right at home in anything from a Victorian morality novel, to a pulp detective story, to any number of slasher movies, to a neo-noir comic book. Or, quite naturally, a Dr. Seuss book. Dr. Seuss, for his part, started his career as a political cartoonist, and an undercurrent of allegory and political commentary was always right underneath those ice-cream colored squiggles of his. If you’ve seen his WWII era work, you’ll recognize exactly where Yertle the Turtle came from. Those Sneetches marching around with and without yellow stars on their bellies weren’t a coincidence either. Seuss never went so far as to illustrate Dante, but maybe he should have, and he certainly could have, and it’s our loss that he didn’t. Here and now, though, I’m wondering if there’s a crowdfund for the artist who goes by Dr. Faustus to go ahead and create The Little Golden Treasury of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Because if that was a thing, and if I had a child, I would buy that thing for my child.
My rebuttal to anyone who says that The Rolling Stones stopped writing good songs, or whatever it is nonbelievers say about The Rolling Stones. I pay closer attention to the Stones’ saga than most. Throughout their adventures and despite their ups and downs, they haven’t lost the ability to pull together into something great. They’re the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band, remember? The fact that it sometimes seems like they’re doing it in their sleep, or worse, just for the money, doesn’t change that. And this is brilliant, and a great love song, and well on par with their other great love songs. If only it existed outside of the context of ‘gosh, you guys sure are old!’ it would be held up as such. I think it captures something very specific and very familiar; the sheer weariness that comes with heartbreak, that sick afterglow that’s like a long hangover that just won’t fade away. It’s a beautiful reminder of any number of dark nights.
In this climate of all things electronic, I haven’t yet seen acid house make a big comeback. What do I know about these fine distinctions, though? Not much, really. Maybe it’s happening right under my nose. Either way, we should all get behind a Lords of Acid revival. Not bloody likely, it seems; they were far too weird to bust out of the underground in the 90’s and they’re too weird to get swept out of it by the EDM tides today. Weird, raunchy and absolutely shitblitzed insane, they occupied a pretty unswept corner of pop culture. Their garish, high-trash, pornified aesthetic was quite outre at the time, though it feels au courant for the world of internet culture. It’s a scary wormhole to go exploring, especially if your familiarity with early 90’s acid house rave culture doesn’t go much further than a vague awareness that it’s a thing that used to exist. Still, the spirit of true weirdness should be rewarded, and if this crew doesn’t deserve to be revered as acid elders, I don’t know who does.
Weezer: another band I don’t listen to very much. They are an overrated 90’s band who’ve coasted along for two decades on the strength of one great album and a handful of catchy singles. But, as the law requires, I dig their debut “Blue” album. I suppose they were ahead of their time in some aspects, mainly in creating a quasi-ironic hipster nerd image that was radical at the time but has since become ubiquitous and is now cycling back into lame again. (The trajectory of Weezer fans getting old.) In 1994 there wasn’t a huge niche in pop culture for clever young dudes who self consciously look like Buddy Holly. Or for catchy guitar pop with self deprecating lyrics and self conscious references to Buddy Holly. Now that’s such a large niche it’s not even a niche at all anymore, it’s the main market. Which is all just a fancy way of saying that they were hipsters before anybody else was. And yeah, Weezer did it well, coasting the wave of catchy retro guitar pop, yet being just slightly insufferable enough to maintain emo outsider cred. So, although the overall bulk of their output has been mediocre, I have to say it for these guys; when they’re at their best, they haven’t aged a day.
Spoiler, the only face Bryan Ferry sees is his own. And what a face! But seriously though, I highly recommend this live performance. It’s nice to hear Ferry stripped of his usual lush orchestration. We all know and love the production values that are his comfort zone, but all that atmosphere doesn’t always let his voice shine through. What a voice, though! With just the croon and the piano, it’s an entirely different level. I haven’t loved Mamouna as much as some of Ferry’s other albums; a lot of the songs just feel kind of forgettable (and it inexplicably has a horse on the cover instead of the usual ornamental semi-naked woman.) Which is why I love the intimate presentation here. It makes the song so much fresher for me.
I don’t know why and I don’t know how…
This is the height of Gothic romance. Nick Cave is too moody, Gothic and romantic for this world. These are dark corners of the human soul your average strip mall emo kid wouldn’t dare touch. I assume that something very bad happened to the woman in the song, something along the lines of Ophelia. It feels like a teaser of a great story, a novel that weighs several pounds whose author died of emphysema and never earned a penny from it. Nick Cave has yet to be the author of a readable novel, and he’s missed the boat on dying in squalor at a romantically young age, but his legacy doesn’t need embellishment. It’s enough to give me a story to imagine.
Say what you will about all the downsides of rock stars getting old, but there are some themes that only make sense coming from an older perspective. Feeling threatened by younger, better looking rivals is one of them. A young Mick Jagger would never be threatened by any other man. A Mick Jagger in his 50’s could be forgiven for worrying about getting traded in for an upgrade. For an egomaniac rock star who’s used to being on top of the world, aging provides an opening for showing a more vulnerable side, a chance to write about something other than being the cock of the walk. I think it’s no coincidence that The Rolling Stones have produced some really outstanding ballads in their later years.