Nick Cave is the most self-consciously literary (more on this word soon), and certainly the most dangerously Byronic (more on this word later in the week), of current singer-songwriters. In keeping with the developing tradition on this blog of posting music when I don’t have anything else ready, here’s a song from his most recent record with the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, “We Call Upon the Author,” which is a bit more obliquely literary than some of his other songs. I could have gone with “There She Goes, My Beautiful World” from Abattoir Blues, which name drops – count ’em – John Wilmot (the Earl of Rochester, famously libidinous poet), Nabokov, Marx, Philip Larkin, and Dylan Thomas, all with soul back-up singers that make it sound like a tent revival in Hell.
But that seemed too obvious.
Still, “We Call Upon the Author” features the Australian’s characteristic blend of preoccupations literary, religious and sexual in a hypnotic pop song format, with a refrain that sounds hilariously highfalutin in its sordid surroundings. He still manages to name-drop Bukowski and John Berryman and, in my favorite moment, makes a pun of Hemingway’s name: “He wrote like wet papier-maché, but he went the Hemingway, / Weirdly on wings and with maximum pain.” More puns should be made about Hemingway, and more literary types should seem this dangerous.
Coda: Apropos of nothing, I feel like Nick Cave’s backing band could fit in in the hysterical “Tree of Woe” skit from last week’s The Onion Sports Dome.