Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Nick Cave: "the Church denies Christ His humanity"

Where to start when talking about Nick Cave?

Maybe with his Introduction to the Gospel of Mark; he is one of two rock stars  (He and Bono, of course) to write an introductiont to a biblical book in the ocket Canon series.  Just a snippet:

The Christ that emerges from Mark, tramping through the haphazard events of His life, had a ringing intensity about him that I could not resist. Christ spoke to me through His isolation, through the burden of His death, through His rage at the mundane, through His sorrow. Christ, it seemed to me was the victim of humanity's lack of imagination, was hammered to the cross with the nails of creative vapidityThe Gospel According to Mark has continued to inform my life as the root source of my spirituality, my religiousness. The Christ that the Church offers us, the bloodless, placid 'Saviour' - the man smiling benignly at a group of children or serenely hanging from the cross - denies Christ His potent, creative sorrow or His boiling anger that confronts us so forcibly in Mark. Thus the Church denies Christ His humanity, offering up a figure that we can perhaps 'praise' but never relate to. The essential humanness of Mark's Christ provides us with a blueprint for our own lives so that we have something we can aspire to rather than revere, that can lift us free of the mundanity of our existences rather than affirming the notion that we are lowly and unworthy. -NIck Cave, "An Introduction to The Gospel According to Mark"
An essay from a theological journal?
Under the Influence? The Bible, Culture and Nick Cave,
An interview with the man?
To write allowed me direct access to my imagination, to inspiration and ultimately to God. I found through the use of language, that I wrote god into existence. Language became the blanket that I threw over the invisible man, that gave him shape and form. Actualising of God through the medium of the love song remains my prime motivation as an artist. The love song is perhaps the truest and most distinctive human gift for recognising God and a gift that God himself needs. God gave us this gift in order that we speak and sing Him alive because God lives within communication. If the world was to suddenly fall silent God would deconstruct and die. Jesus Christ himself said, in one of His most beautiful quotes, "Where ever two or more are gathered together, I am in your midst." He said this because where ever two or more are gathered together there is language. I found that language became a poultice to the wounds incurred by the death of my father. Language became a salve to longing- Nick Cave Interview and Lecture

Oh, maybe the music...Excerpts from Jeffery Overstreet's review:

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus

In the Bible of contemporary gospel music, Nick Cave’s new pair of albums prove he’s a Major Prophet.

Like David Eugene Edwards (of Sixteen Horsepower and Woven Hand), Cave’s brutal honesty, surreal symbolism, zeal for the sublime, and righteous anger at himself and the reset of humanity sets him up as one of rock and roll’s equivalents to John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, making way for the return of the Lord even as he decries those who claim to speak for God.

Cave embraces his role as a hellfire-and-brimstone poet of the weeds and the wilderness on these simultaneous releases—Abattoir Blues and The Lyre of Orpheus. Pondering the cost of war, the greed of superpowers, selfishness disguised as love, lies dressed up as patriotism, and the parlance of religion employed for sinister purposes, Cave’s songs could not be more timely. And they have never arrived with such force. After 2003’s disappointing album Nocturama, in which it sounded like Cave’s musical well had run dry, Abattoir Blues and The Lyre of Orpheus represent a flood of new creativity and energy for Cave. These are the most creative works of his career, some of them stand among the loudest and angriest, and a handful are the closest thing to “beautiful” he’s ever composed. The albums will likely stand the test of time as the pinnacles of his long, dark, strange career, unless he finds some way to go farther on this new surge of vision.

Strangely enough, he accomplishes this in the absence of his longtime guitarist, the Bad Seeds’ Blixa Bargeld. In the open space that remains without Bargeld’s bold, caustic chords, Cave decorates his songs with everything from flutes to gospel choirs, from Jews harps to string sections. The result is a sound as full and forceful as anything on U2’s latest effort. Musically, each album is a furnace unto itself, roaring with fiery guitars and trembling with the force of a Spirit-filled congregation that can actually the judgment coming over the horizon.

..For all of U2’s conscience-burdened lines about Western greed on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, Cave comes up with the year’s most pointed (and self-damning) lyric about the problem, snarling snidely, “The sky is on fire, the dead are heaped across the land, / I woke up this morning with a Frappucino in my hand.” That’s just one of many lines barbed enough to provoke both a wry smile and a wince of shame or regret.

Abattoir Blues begins with “Get Ready For Love,” in which the Bad Seeds rock as if their lives depend on it. It’s a fiery song of Gospel promise, as Christ comes charging down from the heavens on what sounds more like a freight

train than a chariot, bringing the kind of love that should make us tremble and beg for mercy. Cave is at once mocking the hypocrisy and empty emotionalism of contemporary religion (“Praise him ’til you’ve forgotten what you’re praising him for”) and reminding us that God’s work is going on in ways we fail to understand: “The miracle of his promise creeps quietly by.” He seems to be stuck in a conundrum: Why should we love God? But then again, why should God love us? Cave sings with such fury that, if this were alive show, you’d expect to see the folks in the front row heading for the exits or the back wall....
...As in Abattoir Blues, Cave cannot allow himself in good conscience to end on a note of exaltation. He collapses once again into the horrors of human behavior, echoing God’s own lament in “O Children,” a prayer infused with regret and hope. Victims of atrocities are lined up to be “hosed down” and “inspected” before they’re put on the train. Is that sin being washed away? Or is the church merely following the model of the Nazis, forcing its “passengers” to conform to some false ideal, building a faux kingdom on earth, with a gospel train that won’t even leave the station? In the midst of these lines, “I once was blind, but now I see” is probably intended with painful irony. You get the sense he wishes he could be blind again. The album closes with a hint of dissonance, as if all of this “happiness” among the redeemed might be premature, as if the ugliness of humanity’s evil may produce too great a stinking cloud for anyone to catch a glimpse of a hopeful horizon.

In days as dark as these, when the people of the world hear nothing but speeches about goodwill, honor, peace, and freedom from their leaders, and yet hear the constant reports of lies, incompetence, failures, increasing hatred, violence, and chaos, these two albums play like the soundtrack to the age. Cave offers no false hopes, no touchy-feely assurances. He’s hurt, betrayed, angry, and desperate for the Gospel to prove true. And at the same time, he knows he is made of the same crude matter as those deceivers who lead innocents to the slaughter. This is as honest, as raw, and as powerful as rock and roll gets.
--Five words or less: The two peaks of Cave’s career.   - _Jeffrey Overstreet


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