Nick Cave is nothing if not enigmatic, and unpredictable. So it just makes
sense that the Australian rocker, who began his long, strange journey through
death and mayhem in the early 80's with the bleak-rockers in the Birthday Party
and who last year unleashed on the world the dismal Murder Ballads,
would follow such a dark release with an album of plaintive, dare we say
beautiful, love ballads.
Produced by Cave and the Bad Seeds and
U2-collaborator Flood, The Boatman's Call (Mar. 11) is a delicate
passion play built on 12 songs and love poems that reveal a more tender, but no
less lyrically striking, side of Cave. Starting with the swaying "Into My
Arms," one of many songs in which Cave struggles with both religion and love
and the unholy intersection of the two, he pleads:
"I don't believe in an
"But I know, darling, that you do
"But if I did I
would kneel down and ask Him
"not to intervene when it came to you
to touch a hair on your head
"to leave you as you are,"
It is, perhaps,
the purest, most sincere love song to ever drip from Cave's perennially
sarcastic and morbid lips...
The album was recorded in July of 1996 in London, which is
where ATN caught up with Cave this week. "I've wanted to make a record of slow,
melancholic songs, for a long time now," said Cave. "I've always written a fair
amount of these kinds of songs and they continue to be the favorite one's I've
One of the most striking things about the album, whose musical
accompaniment is spare, with understated playing from the Bad Seeds and a few
guest turns on violin from Warren Ellis of the Australia's Dirty Three, is how
strongly the lyrics stand out, even when the music is stripped away.
Elegies like "West Country Girl" and mantra-like "Black Hair," not
surprisingly, got their start as poems that Cave says he penned for a special
someone. "That song was written as a gift to the person I'm singing about, it's
most certainly about a particular person" said Cave of "Black Hair." "In fact,
I don't know if I should have even put it on there. It's basically a song about
taking a certain aspect of that woman and repeating it in a mantra-like
fashion. I find that with many of the women I fall in love with, or am
infatuated by, I cling to a certain physical aspects of them and am inspired by
In the song, Cave repeats the title phrase more than a
dozen times, until his entire world seems to be blotted out by a thick curtain
of blackness, black hair, "as deep as ink," "black, black as the deepest sea."
Although the album is a decided turn away from the murder, rape, pillage
and random violence of his last effort, Cave doesn't consider it a sign of his
mellowing with age. "I have no idea if I'm mellowing out," he said with a
grumble. "I mean, I think this slow, melancholic music is really a logical
conclusion to what I've been doing for many years."