All of those birds would’ve sung to your beautiful heart

I’ve considered the convergence between music and literature before. Sometimes, the convergence of the two is quite extraordinarily apt. Sometimes, noticeably quite the opposite. Today I was continuing with the quaint surrealism of Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar, and its soundtrack was Nick Cave’s Let Love In.

Had I chosen the more recent Lyre Of Orpheus, then the sunny, gentle disposition of tracks such as Breathless might have made the perfect accompaniment to the hazy and unreal watermelon landscapes that Brautigan depicts.

Had I had available to me No More Shall We Part, its intricate, winding songs engendering a deep tenderness of feeling, then the adventures of the unnamed protagonist might have swum more clearly into view. The Celtic scales of Hallelujah, the gentle half-satire of God Is In The House, or the dolorous, wistful Love Letter might have fitted very nicely indeed.

As it was, the nerve-jangling abrasion of Jangling Jack remains scored into my memory; the booming Do You Love Me? repeats on me. Far from the undulating landscapes of Brautigan’s thought-plane, these jarring moments really put the frighteners on. Here is Nick Cave when his muse was fully in Blixa Bargeld. The erstwhile Bad Seed and Einstürzende Neubauten terrorist runs his rampant guitar over all of Cave’s work from this era – surprising given the singularity of the man himself is the neccessity to have others around him. Even post-Bargeld, the Bad Seeds look increasingly to Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis for inspiration, and his emotional, searing violin strokes have provided the soundtrack for Cave’s shift in style from art-noise monster to respected, gothic balladeer.

Perhaps it’s not surprising though. If you take a look at the lyrics, and even take a listen to Cave’s strained baritone, you’ll notice that here is a man who is searching for something, uncomfortable in the world he finds himself a part of; insecure. Take the title track to No More Shall We Part. The title phrase is sung at the very limits of Nick Cave’s emotional and physical register, a strained, pained, emotive phrase. Take the whole of The Boatman’s Call, a break-up album every bit as essential as Blood On The Tracks. Nick Cave has always coddled himself with a band, even when the albums are as stark as No More… He’s clearly insecure about love and happiness, maybe his drugs have scarred him, maybe he’s more scared of his the religion he’s so fascinated with than he lets on.

Either way, he’s a fascinating individual himself, and consistently brings the goods. So I like to listen to Nick Cave, even when it doesn’t fit the book.

Nick Cave – Love Letter (from No More Shall We Part)

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3 Responses

  1. Haven’t read Brautigan in years–just left him behind, along with Kerouac, most of the beats (except William Burroughs), Tom Robbins…

    Brautigan’s lonely death was one of the saddest endings to a writer I know. I dunno if his work will survive and ever achieve immortality but I look back on it with nostalgia and some affection…

  2. I’m being fed Brautigan as an entry point into beat writing, of which I’ve been suspicious pretty much for ever. I’m enjoying it, I guess… Thanks for stopping by though, Cliff Burns of early Metallica fame.

  3. Oops, missed your reply.

    The guy from Metallica was Cliff Burton, wasn’t he?

    Fortunately, I’m the only Cliff Burns in these parts. And I’ve got a new occult thriller novel out.

    Meanwhile, the other guy’s still dead, as far as I know…

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