in Mirror or Closer Than They Appear
Nest in White Sands
in Lava Crack, Malpaís
and Lichen Detail
Cactus and Seeds
is The THING?
1. Red Meat Wedding
2: Southwest Roadtrip Music: reviews of new Nick Cave and Tom Waits
3: Native American Graffiti
4: Turkey Dancing
to Albuquerque, November 22-23, 2004
For their wedding, Max and Ginny had made up some souvenir CDs—a
Tiki-Tucson Loungy “Fistful of Rice” mix with the likes of Pell Mell, Ry Cooder, Useless Playboys, Martin Denny, Sergio Mendes, Dick Dale, Combustible Edison, Nan Vernon and of course the Tucson house band Calexico. We also had some prep work to do for our “Turkey Dance”, but we forgot to bring the
mix we made with "Rock Your Body" by Justin Timberlake, so we were forced to pay full price for the CD at Zia Records. Hoping to
distract the hipsters behind the
counter, we hid the CD in a stack with the new albums by Tom Waits, U2, Nick Cave and Fela Kuti.
This was to supplement the 20 GB of music we had loaded on my Samsung/Napster Device that we were able to play via the FM transmitter on our car
stereo as long as we weren't near any cities, which were few and far
between. We loaded up the car, a cream colored PT cruiser that we got as a free upgrade, cranked the tunes and hit the open road.
U2 “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”—all I have to say is save yourself $15—DON’T BUY THIS ALBUM.
Huge disappointment. It was supposed to be my birthday present, but I took
the Nick Cave album instead, especially being as this was my birthday
I would have good things to say about Fela Kuti’s posthumously released
“The Underground Spiritual
Game,” but the mood of the album didn’t fit our Southwest roadtrip. Maybe
I'll review it another time.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Abattoir Blues & The Lyre of Orpheus”
From the lead-off title track "Get Ready for Love," its apparent
that Nick Cave is back with a vengeance, or maybe it’s more that he just refuses to die, but rather remain
forever ours in an immortal half-dead state with a needle hanging from his skeletal
frame, ranting and raving for our amusement. What better album to take with us into Blood
Meridian country, into the Evening Redness in the West. Though Cave may have celebrated his first Birthday Party in Australia, he has since become a world denizen, from Berlin to Tijuana. His music takes American Gospel and Blues and turns into what? What do you call it? Nick Cave is Nick Cave,
like a classically trained childhood prodigy gone disgruntled lounge singer or ranting game show host on Truth or Consequences with delusions of grandeur that have become a reality. At 45, when most of the other junkies have died, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds puts out not one, but a double album, beautifully packaged in an elegant pink and white cloth sleeve. The poor souls who mistake this album for new age ambient
music are in for a surprise.
“Abattoir Blues” is the more rocking of the two. There is something
very compelling about his music, his vocal delivery instills a sense of urgency like what he has to say is incredibly important, until you stop to listen and realize the lyrics are
absurdly overcooked and bordering on comical, but you have to just “Praise Him till you’ve forgotten what you’re praising Him for” and “Get
Ready for Love! Praise Him!” and wave your hanky from your high-windowed palace, “sending grief and joy down in supportable doses”. In the title track, Cave tells us that “Everything’s dissolving, babe, according to plan, the sky is on fire, the dead are heaped across the land” and a second later he says, “I woke up this morning with a Frapuccino in my hand.” Yet,
somehow Cave manages to earn the right to get away with such grandiose contradictions.
“The Lyre of Orpheus” is the mellower of the two CDs, and perhaps more autobiographically absurd in sing-speak, “Orpheus went leaping through the fields/Strumming as hard as he did please/Birdies detonated in the sky/Bunnies dashed their brains out in the trees/O mamma O mamma.” Yet, Cave sings with such conviction, and when backed by the tight and talented Bad Seeds, you believe everything he says as the gospel truth.
“Breathless” manages to be nostalgic on the first listen. In “Babe, You Turn Me On,” Cave is back as a self-proclaimed butcher bird making a noise and “asks you to agree with [his] brutal nesting habits” and then he puts “one hand on your round ripe heart and the other down your panties”. The prevailing theme
and effect is euphoric disintegration.
We listened to the album as we drove through White Sands. We woke up before it even got light so we were the first and only ones in the park. The sky was gray and the sun was low, so the sands were more of an off-white. But for a few moments the sun burst the clouds and all was brilliant.
We listened to “Easy Money” as we drifted into Alamogordo, and amidst the
pawn shops and abandoned strip malls littered with tumbleweed and plastic
bags it was appropriate. “Giving joy in diminishing returns” and “life
shuffling pass at a low interest rate”. We stopped at Ramona's, an old
coffee shop with fake wood-paneling and mismatched formica tables and
vinyl chairs, and rednecks and Indians and cops all helping to fill the
room with a cloud of cigarette smoke. But damn, the huevos rancheros
smothered in green chili with black coffee doesn't get much better. I was eavesdropping on the table next to us, and for half an hour
all they talked about was the nuances of their gas gauges in their trucks.
Tom Waits “Real Gone”
As we digested our green chili, we put on the new Tom Waits, “Real Gone”. After the two rushed and disappointing albums (Blood Money and Alice) he put out in 2002, Waits is back with the melodic depth of Frank’s Wild Years and the gruffness of the Black Rider. The album is perfectly
anti-produced to sound like the whole band is playing through an old tube amp and then
recycled through an old AM radio like voice and instruments are compressed
into one collective instrument with every note in its perfect place. At times, such as in “Hoist” it becomes a full-on cacophonic caterwaul of
noise, a tornado that picks up everything in its path and spits out twangs, bangs, barks, coughing hairballs, banshee cries, and the kitchen sink. These are the
“grim reapers,” as Kathleen Brennan, his partner in crime, calls them, which are typically followed by “grand weepers” like “Sins” or “End,"
which are not the typical Tom Waits piano ballads. His piano must be on
We let “Real Gone” propel us from Alamogordo through the harsh lava-flowed
landscape of Malpaís. At times it's almost disconcerting to bear witness to the self-destructive abuse Waits is doing to his voice, or the strain he is putting on his heart, such as
in “Metropolitan Glide” where he gasps for air like he literally is
dying for us. And of course, it’s the lyrics that Waits
continues to do better than any other American songwriter.
What’s your bottle made of
Is it money or bone
Don’t doddle or you’ll
Never get home
Opium, fireworks, vodka, and meat
Scoot over and save me a seat
From “Circus” (a bit cliché for Waits, but nevertheless still classic):
… and there was Yodeling Elaine the
Queen of the air who wore a
Dollar sign medallion and she
Had a tiny bubble of spittle
Around her nostril and a
Little rusty tear, for
Lassoed and lost
The sirens are snaking their
Way up the hill
It’s last call somewhere in
The reptiles blend in with the
Color of the street
Life is sweet at the edge
Of a razor
And down in the front row of
An old picture show
The old man is asleep
As the credits start to roll
We listened to the album in the rain driving through
Malpaís, then went on a side excursion to the ghost town of White
Oaks, which was not really a ghost town but some abandoned buildings
where supposedly Billy the Kid used to hang. Then we headed out
towards the interstate, passing the Trinity Site where they exploded the
first atomic bomb back in 1945, then took the I-17 through Socorro and up to Albuquerque.
Resolution in the White Sands & Gray Sky
Rats on a Castillo Grid (Santa Fe)