Saturday, February 27, 2016

No More Shall We Part (2001)

Nick Cave's wedding album almost certainly has more to do with recovery from heroin addiction and alcoholism than with marriage, but that's OK. It works either way. "The contracts are drawn up, / The ring is locked upon the finger": whether he's talking about marital bliss, or a lifetime of sobriety charms, or both, it has the mournful yet profoundly gratifying sound of accepting responsibility. Its many layers are self-contradictory. Every time he uses a term like "no more shall we part," for example, all I hear is longing, sorrow, and absence. Maturity is a terrible price to pay for growing up, they like to crack at places where a guy like Nick Cave finds help (or maybe not: "goose-stepping twelve-stepping tee-totalitarianists," he erupts in an out-of-context pique at one point). You feel the rue in every song here. The sense of regretful wisdom hangs over it like swamp gas. But it's not all sorrow, or even mostly sorrow. It's tempered by real joy, compressed into the labors of simply producing it. The band is in an undeniable state of grace. The faith glows in the commitment to doing it. In practical terms, it's heard in the careful way the parts of the songs are worked out, and the way they're played. They're tentative, feeling their way through the moods of the lyrics, landing on riffs and hooks and good sounds that resonate. The McGarrigle singers, Kate and Anna, appear in the role of chick singers, and they are a heavenly presence. In one song a single note is struck on the piano repeatedly, finally rousing the band to the point, like a wire walker hundreds of feet in the air and no net, taking one step at a time. The singer here, the married man, would not have it any other way, I suspect—marriage is a type of high wire act—and I also suspect he's a bit like the songwriter, Nick Cave. With "the Lord" addressed so frequently, there's an ancient feeling about all this (or at least medieval) that tempts characterizations such as "Calvinist." You feel the tortured faith in it, or at least in the performance of it, the near-nihilism of a belief in predestination and its result in craven empty yearning for grace. "God is in the house," he sings in another song. "No cause for worry now." There he goes again. It sounds like worry is all he has.

No comments:

Post a Comment