Wild Mercury Sound

Nick Cave and Gardener's Question Time

John Mulvey

Looking for facts in Nick Cave lyrics is a bit of a dumb game. If you were to take everything he's said at face value, he'd have been dead long ago: hanged for murder, perhaps, at some point in the 19th Century.

Nevertheless, a bit of this new song, "Love Bomb", really rings true. Cave is talking, I think, about the struggle for inspiration. He wants to make a noisy record that sounds debauched, irresponsible and unhinged, but he's not really debauched and irresponsible any more. What does he write about?

The answer, it seems, is Radio 4. "Love Bomb" is a great clanging freak-out, and Cave sounds vigorously mad on it. But he's singing, "I’ve been listening to Woman's Hour, I've been listening to Gardeners’ Question Time." Cave is a seasoned connoisseur of the perverse, for sure, but it seems even he can't bring himself to listen to You & Yours.

Anyway, this is one of the things that makes Cave's new project, Grinderman, so enjoyable. Grinderman is essentially an excuse for Cave and three more Bad Seeds - Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn Casey - to grow beards, dump the stately dignity of recent albums and make a nasty old garage band racket. They sound like they're having a fantastic time on these buzzing, unpleasant blues grooves, wired back into the Australian punk scene of the late '70s and early '80s, returning to The Stooges for malign inspiration - only with a fuzzed -out electric bouzouki to the fore.

But Cave is too self-aware an operator to pretend to be a delinquent junkie these days. To a greater degree than Iggy on the Stooges' comeback, he knows that what was once adolescent misanthropy is now likely to come across as the ravings of a grumpy old man. So, cleverly, he revels in the role: driven to distraction by women, the exigencies of the modern world, and the dearth of good comedies on Radio 4 in the early evening. Oh, and bad men who drink "panther piss", obviously. Enjoy at Grinderman's Myspace.


Editor's Letter

Robert Wyatt interviewed: "I'm not a born rebel..."

Today (January 28, 2015), social media reliably informs me that Robert Wyatt is 70, which seems a reasonable justification for reposting this long and, I hope, interesting transcript of an interview I did with him at home in Louth back in 2007, a little before the marvellous “Comicopera” was...