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This time back Nick Cave's dwelling mainly on love [1998] By Jim Sullivan (Globe Staff) Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

Six years ago, Nick Cave was discussing his musical obsessions - his passion for morbid, romantic blues-rock, his themes of love, betrayal, and bloodshed. His rather visceral summary: ``I think there is a certain perversity in my music in that I continue, you know, to eat at the same ball of vomit year after year.''

Last week, Cave was asked if that still fits. ``I think that really applies,'' the lanky Australian-born singer-songwriter says, from his London home. ``I find new ways of addressing things, becoming more clear about what I've been doing all these years. Personally, I think I've been on the same kind of artistic endeavor I've always been on and that is to write really great love songs. And that is the ball of vomit I'm talking about.''

Cave and his band, the Bad Seeds, make their first area appearance since their misguided Lollapalooza daytime slot in 1994, at the Roxy on Labor Day. Reprise has just released a best-of album, so, one presumes, Cave wants to reintroduce himself. ``I don't have a great desire to let anyone know I'm still here,'' Cave says. ``I just think that it has been a long time since we've been to America. My relationship with it has been somewhat strained over the years. I'm not quite sure why, but a certain amount had to do with Lollapalooza, which I found quite distractive to the group in a lot of ways. It's been so long, America almost seems like a new place to go.''

Cave came to note in the early 1980s with the Birthday Party. He, like Bauhaus (see story, Page E13) was adopted by the goths, for whom Cave professes affection. ``They are the most enduring and brave of the [subcultures],'' he says. ``There's something sweet about that. When the big bomb goes off, all that's going to survive are goths and cockroaches.''

Cave has fronted versions of the Bad Seeds since 1983, spinning bluesy murder ballads and spiritual love songs, taking people down deep into a pit of despair and then lifting them out. ``Well,'' poses Cave, with a slight laugh, ``at least getting them down there. Leaving them there, I don't know. I think America seems to have this arm-wrestle between what is dark and what is not. And I've never seen music in those terms. I think that I'm dealing with issues, mostly, of love. And, to me there's nothing more positive than that.''

Fair enough, but is that the man who wrotethe gently persuasive ``People Ain't No Good'' and many of Cave's characters meet uncomfortable or grisly fates. ``I do have a love of violent literature,'' he says, ``and I do get a kick out of writing violent lyrics as well. I guess when those two things get together, love and violence, it makes for some nasty songwriting. But I never see that as being gloomy or depressing. I see it as quite lively.''

He has a point. ``The Mercy Seat,'' sung from the point of view of a condemned man about to be electrocuted, is enthralling: an upward, dramatic spiral. Few of Cave's songs have a black-and-white read. ``It's the world we live in,'' Cave says, of what he writes. ``I think that songs that bang on about what a happy lot this human race is and everything is full of joy, that's an alternate world. I don't mean to be depressing about these things, but I find songs like that quite strange.''


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