Wild Mercury Sound

Nick Cave, Plush and the missing Portishead tracks

John Mulvey

Further to my Portishead blog last week, a CD turned up this morning, so we've finally been able to hear a couple of tracks that wouldn't work on our secure stream. Quite abrasive on first listen, but I'll report back later.

At home this weekend, I returned to the new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album for the first time in a fortnight or so. It still sounds great, as you might imagine, and also funnier than ever. The comedy is compounded, I think, by this video to "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!", which features Cave and his moustache on some kind of treadmill, strutting, gesticulating and generally hamming their way through this excellent song with all the picareque extravagance that the lyrics demand.

And while we're loitering on Youtube, have a look at this new clip by Liam Hayes & Plush. Hayes has been around for over a decade now, and has one of the most eccentric careers of anyone I can think of in recent times.

He initially appeared playing a bit of piano on records by The Palace Brothers and Royal Trux, before releasing a seven-inch called "Three Quarters Blind Eyes"/"Found A Little Baby" which ranks as one of my favourite singles ever.

After another single, Hayes disappeared back to Chicago, promising a magnum pop opus that, if the singles were anything to go by, may well have sat somewhere between Big Star and Bacharach.

When he did return, however, it was with a stark album of piano ballads called "More You Becomes You". Around that time I interviewed him in a Putney park: my first question was something vague about his age which took him ten minutes to not answer. After that, the interview got odder.

Hayes then appeared briefly in the movie of "High Fidelity", playing piano in a cocktail bar, and was reputedly working on his own film. Eventually, a few years ago, the great full-blown album appeared, "Fed". Since it had cost him so much to make, only a Japanese label could afford to release it. Drag City, meanwhile, ended up releasing the stripped-back, substantially cheaper (I assume) demos as "Underfed". It's all good.

As is this new song, "Take A Chance". With characteristic logic, Hayes appears to have finished another album, and still not found a record label to release it. In the interim, he's made a video for this impressively lavish song - mostly looking like a TV clip from the late '60s - which promises plenty.

I always thought that Hayes was a reinterpreter of laidback, Bacharach-ish chamber pop in the same way that Will Oldham lovingly subverted country-pop. The thing is, Hayes' career thus far has suggested that his approach to the music business is so wilfully perverse (even by the standards of that Chicago set), he makes Oldham look like, oh, James Blunt or something. I wonder when the album will actually turn up?


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...