I’ve been told that today is a holiday of some kind, celebrating outmoded hetero-normative ideations of romantic love, or sex in exchange for overpriced chocolate if you’re a being a realist about it. Clearly, this calls for a love song, and nobody writes love songs like Nick Cave does. Some people may find it disturbing, or unromantic at the very least, that a lot of Nick Cave’s love songs are also murder ballads. In the world of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, if you’re in love, you’re very likely to kill or to be killed about it, which… well, have you read the news lately? People really enjoy doing murder, apparently, usually male on female. Reading into the way we talk about “romance”, how we define it, and what actions we associate with it, we see subtextual patterns of implied violence and the implicit normalization of abusive behavior. The humble murder ballad is simply that same violent subtext, writ large and explicit. Perhaps, in the service of essential truthiness, murder ballads are the only real and true love songs. There is, of course, a middle ground between the insipid and the bloody, a way of writing about love without anyone dying, and yet without being willfully obtuse about the subject.

O Children

Nick Cave can make cold creepy crawly chills run down your spine. This songs gives me all the heebie-jeebies.  And he’s not even going out of his way to be disturbing. Coming from a man who once made a full album of murder ballads (and called it Murder Ballads) what’s a song about taking children away on trains? What’s a few light Holocaust references? That’s what I take it to be, that or a hymn to religious fanaticism. Line your children up for inspection before they get on the train. Let the cleaners hose you down. You’re all going to the kingdom and you don’t know what you’re in for. There only one thing those images bring to mind.  Hardly the stuff of family entertainment, but somehow this song found its way into a Harry Potter movie. Now there’s two fandoms you don’t expect to have much overlap. On the other hand, the Potterverse explicitly got quite dark, and there were things implied between the lines that were frankly infernal. So maybe not a bad match, Nick Cave singing about the Holocaust and a children’s book about attempted genocide.

Hiding All Away

Nick Cave has written plenty of disturbing songs in his time. It’s kind of his stock in trade. He’s been famous for his murder ballads for years and years – years before he went and named a record Murder Ballads. It didn’t look as if he could top that outing, but Abattoir Blues and The Lyre of Orpheus were if anything even more shocking. I don’t know if he’ll ever top that diptych for sheer pitch-blackness. Every song strikes fear into the heart. It’s relentless. This song is like watching a sick horror movie where you can’t quite see what  you’re afraid of and that makes it so much worse. It’s no surprise Cave has started writing movies – he was a master of narrative in short, short form already. His novel unfortunately turned out to be too much of a good thing. It was too dense and sticky to be pleasurable. But the screenplay seems to suit him better. The Proposition was one of the best modern day western films I have seen, with a very characteristic ambiance of doom.  I’m looking forward to his upcoming gangster film Lawless and anything else he might come up with. Heck, I might even give him one more chance with the whole novel-writing thing.

“Hiding All Away”

You went looking for nur, dear,
Down by the sea
You found some Iittle silver fish
But you didn’t find me
I was hiding, dear, hiding all way
I was hiding, dear, hiding all way

You went to the museum
You climbed a spiral stair
You searched for me all among
The knowledgeable air
I was hidden, babe, hiding all away
I was hidden, dear, hiding all away

You entered the cathedral
When you heard the solemn knell
I was not sitting with the gargoyles
I was not swinging from the hell
I was hiding, dear, I was hiding all away
I was hiding, dear, I was hiding all away

You asked an electrician
If he’d seen me round his place
He touched you with his fingers
Sent sparks zapping out your face
I was hidden, dear, hiding all away
I was not there, dear, hiding all away

You went and asked your doctor
To get some advice
He shot you full of Pethidine
And then he billed you twice

But I was hiding, dear, hiding all away
But I was hiding, dear, hiding all away

You approached a high court judge
You thought he’d be on the level
He wrapped a rag around your face
And beat you with his gavel
I was hiding, habe, hiding all away
I was hidden, dem, hiding all away

You asked at the local constabulary
They said, he’s up to his same old tricks
They leered at you with their baby blues
And rubbed jelly on their sticks
I had to get out of there, babe, hiding all away
I had to get out of there, dear, hiding all away

You searched through all my poets
From Sappho through to Auden
I saw the book fall from your hands
As you slowly died of boredom
I had been there, dear,
but I was not there anymore
I had been there, now I’m hiding all way

You walked into the ball of fame
And approached my imitators
Some were stuffing their faces with caviar
Some were eating cold potatoes
I was hiding, dear, hiding all away
I was hiding, dear, hiding all away

You asked a famous cook if he’d seen me
He opened his oven wide
He basted you with butter, babe
And made you crawl inside
I was not in there, dear, hiding all away
I was not in there, dear, hiding all away

You asked the butcher
Who lifted up his cleaver
Stuck his fist up your dress
Said he must’ve been mad to leave you
But I had to get away, dear, hiding all away
I had to get away, dear, I was hidden all away

Some of us we hide away
Some of us we don’t
Some will live to love another day
And some of us won’t
But we all know there is a law
And that law, it is love
And we all know there’s a war coming
Coming from above

There is a war coming
There is a war coming