Category Archives: Music


So, Nick Cave’s newish band Grinderman is coming out with a new album called “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” (I love those three exclamation points, by the way.) I’ve been a long-time man fan of Nick Cave, and the new album looks fantastic.
Cool artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster, who were nothing just a few years ago I think, did some of the album artwork. And Graeme Swinton, a rich media / Flash/ other designer, looks like he helped with the video, which, in turn, is great. And below.
The whole thing reeks of bad early 1980s production, Nick Cave looks old and ugly with that caterpillar mustache, and the song seems, as one commentator noted, fresh. It’s really unlike anything else out there right now.

Getting Back.

I don’t know why I think is the one of the most romantic videos ever shot, full of Orientalism, Jewish love, physical tenderness, and plain old endearment. It features David Berman’s Silver Jews singing “I’m Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You” while holding his wife as they walk through Jerusalem’s Arab market.
Oh, and it looks like the same director, Michael Tully is coming out with the Silver Jews movie. Cool.

Elliott Brood.

I saw Elliott Brood today at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. I thought it was one guy but it was three guys with two of them singing, one of them banging away on the backside of his drumsticks and the three of them completely rocking. I thought maybe they were some kind of play on Elliott Smith but they’re not – they’re the real thing – Canadian rock musik. Part of a new breed folk-rock musicians that sometimes gets labeled “death country,” I thought these guys got it – no hillbilly, finger-picking, snot-eating, chicken-drizzling, ho-boy, cowboying country for them. It was a bit like watching the Violent Femmes be all mad at the fact that they were built on country music. Moreover, Elliot Brood was extremely gracious and acknowledged that they were thrilled to be at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and appreciated the huge turnout and support.
The Festival itself rocked as well. I saw a “workshop” of about 7 folkies who ranged in business from folk-satire to falsetto blues and, as always, I kind of fell in love with all of them. The beautifully cool Romi Mayes gave a variegated, traditional performance of a few of her sad-tinged songs of loss and love. Death Vessel‘s Joel Thibodeau brooded (pun intended) amongst the fanfare of the workshop; but his strange, truthful falsetto voice matches anything by Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan. It was the angelic, sublime voice of local girl, Keri McTighe, of Nathan that seemed to capture my sonic brain.
Individual tunes varied in quality but it was a good, strong sampling of the kinds of things folk can and can’t do. Actually, folk can do pretty much anything; as my wife said, if it acknowledges its roots in some way, it’s kind of folk. Right.
And there’s some sadness in all of this as well. Amidst the hubbub and the cheering, the clapping and whooping and calling and sad songs and crazy eyes of the dancing fans and the 31-degree heat beating down on my Tilley’d hat-head, you’re only new once. This was my first experience of the Winnipeg Folk Festival and I can only say that once. Things go and things pass and that’s it, they’re gone. No more. It was my day in the sun.


I got the new Grinderman (aka Nick Cave and a new band) and it’s good, but also sad.
I saw Nick Cave in concert in Providence, RI, around 1988, and then again in Boston a few months later. He was incredible then. Just fresh off the Your Funeral, My Trial trail and with a band that included the inimitable Blixa Bargeld on guitar and the brilliant Mick Harvey, the shows were positively electric. Lights blinked on and off, red and yellow and white, pounding drums. Nick Cave commanded the fucking stage, his slicked back hair and lit cigarette flying everwhere. Girls were going mad at these concerts for him and the guys I knew would just die to be him, even for a day. He built his entire character on the backs of Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, William Blake, James Dean and a hundred other romantics, Nick Cave in his thin, black suits and ties just rocked.
Can you tell that I adored him and the Bad Seeds? I did. He told the dirty truth about a dirty world and a dirty mind and, for someone with a poetically romantic bent, Nick Cave bent sinister.
I lived in London in 1990 and I, somehow, got tickets to see him there. That was a truly remarkable concert, part of his The Good Son tour.
Now, with Grinderman, Cave looks old. His eyes are sunken, his hair is thin, his wrinkles are pronounced. He looks like hell – the tobacco and drugs and drink evidently haven taken their toll. And the new songs are desparate, dispairing, grotesque even. One song, “No Pussy Blues,” is particularly impactful. There’s a bad interview with Cave in Salon that’s worth reading, if, for nothing else, getting a sense of where the guy is at, currently (but don’t listen to the young, naive interviewer make a fool of himself in front of Cave on the podcast). Here’s an excerpt:

Look, when I’m alone and writing there are all sorts of influences — feminine and masculine influences, memories and ghosts of the past, all that stuff — having an impact on what I write. With Grinderman, most of it, I’m stuck in a room with four guys in the middle of a fucking monumental midlife crisis. It’s a male thing. It’s an old man kind of thing. I think there’s really something kind of hysterical in the music that’s a reflection of that.

Look, Nick Cave is old. He’s the musical acknowledgement of our age.
Postscript. Found on YouTube:


My friend, R.M., sent this video to me. I have nothing to add, except that it’s kind of amusing and the performer is very rehearsed and very talented.

Joanna Newsom.

I’m listening to the aptly named Joanna Newsom sing her crazy songs. Her new album, Ys, borders on total brilliance. Newsom is a harpist and her incredible voice, wavering and pitching and heaving in the waves of her music, sounds like the harp she plays. The songs are orchestrally constructed, full of sweeping violins, plucking chords, and a rare backup chorale. It’s almost as if Newsom came down to our unholy earth and blessed us with these tidy morsels of overwrought, delightful Viking lust.
Kind of a cross between Kate Bush, Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, and a range of new music recording artists, the new album is phenomenally produced. Steve Albini, who produced some of my all-time favorite bands (The Pixies, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Superchunk, The Breeders, Fugazi, PJ Harvey and others) also produced one of the tracks on this little masterpiece. Newsom signed with my fave new label, Drag City, and she worked with Jim O’Rourke on the mix. It’s a bit of total turtle soup: there’s Jews Harp, electric guitar, harpy harp, cymbals, and a cameo of a singer that sounds like Nick Cave (it’s Smog’s Bill Callahan). The whole thing is just rattling around in my tin brain. It’s a rock opera for sad men, a siren call for mermaids, a plaintive cry for long commutes and desperate sonic youth.


In Judaism, David is an important, if not critical, figure. David is a warrior, a king of the Jews, a human willing to fight the largest of giants; moreover, he is the precursor to Jesus Christ for Christians and, for Jews, an ancient ancestor of the true messiah, who will arrive one day.
Over the past six months, I’ve become enamored of three musicians named David. All of them are somewhat kindred spirits, men with beards who crawl through the world they love to see grace and dishonesty more clearly. In their songs, this grace takes on the form of infatuation and uncertainty while the dishonest part comes through knowing that grace is a shadow of utter beauty. The modern world does not allow us too often a glimpse of earth’s inherent gloriousness but, when it does, we distrust our own eyes.
David Berman of the Silver Jews is fantastic and untouchable. A founder of the famed band Pavement, I’ve heard that Stephen Malkmus (the lead singer) pretty much quit Pavement after hearing the album Bright Flight in 2001. Check out the awesome Silver Jews’ videos.
My next musical favey Davey is David Bazan. Formerly of Pedro the Lion, his new album, Fewer Moving Parts, is lonely, depressive and glorious. The album contains two, equally great, versions of the same songs: electric and acoustic. He looks like a lunatic at his MySpace page. He’ll be playing New York on November 3. I won’t be there.
The final David is a secret.