Sunday, 11 May 2008

Nick Cave>We Call Upon the Author

On Friday I went to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. They gave a simply magnificent performance and were so loud that even two days later my ears are still ringing. Cave might be 50 but I don't think I've seen such an animated lead singer - the drink and drugs don't seem to have taken too much toll on him.

The centrepiece to the gig was the song 'We Call Upon the author' from the Bad Seeds' recent album (Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, 2008). Clearly this is an important song in the ever increasing and impressive Cave discography - it also takes centre-stage on the album. Cave introduced the song by saying, 'This next song alone will be worth the entrance fee. Are you ready?' Then the band pulled out the best performance of the night - intense, frenzied and simply brilliant - actually worth every penny of The £27.50 ticket.

The song itself is challenging - musically - and certainly lyrically (see lyrics here). Now I've reflected long on hard on what this song represents for me. Firstly, the lyrics of the song ask serious questions about God. On Friday Cave literally screamed out the line - 'We call upon the author to explain!' Then he launched into this verse:
'Oh rampant discrimination, mass poverty, third world debt, infectious disease
Global inequality and deepening socio-economic divisions
Well, it does in your brain
And we call upon the author to explain'

Now this is where I want to make my point! You just don't get words like this in a church service - but I think we should. The Psalms are just full of questions for God - often angry questions from alienated voices. I would argue that it is an essential part of the worship experience to pose such questions - it actually affirms us as God's children, granted freewill to ask real questions of our Father. And this is why the songs we sing in church - ancient and modern - just do not cut it for me. That's why I have to listen people like Nick Cave. They simply provide a worship experience that I don't get in so called 'sacred' music. When I go to church I want some honest, down-to-earth collective 'worship' - that does not mean just telling God how great He is, it means opening our lives before him and admitting that sometimes we just don't get Him or what is happening in the world He created. On Friday during this song, Nick Cave took me to that place and I'm sure The Author was fine with that.


Nick Coke said...

As if my magic this appears in today's Independent - a review of Friday's gig: 'Nick Cave, in feverish preacher mode, and his apostles, the Bad Seeds, manage, despite all the technical hitches, to deliver a blistering sermon. And it's a sensational service'!

Cosmo said...

I thought of you the other day when I saw a poster for the Nick Cave tour coming to Dublin.

Wow, what a fascinating song. Proof, if ever it was needed, that the rumour of God hasn't gone away. (I wonder how many in the audience that night genuinely asked the same question?)

There's lots to unpack in this song. Yes, the raw honesty in this song is simlilar to the tear-filled questions of many Hebrew psalmists, or perhaps the friends of Job.

My initial reflection is about the phrase 'calling on the author to explain.' I imagine that he is talking about God as a being who has already written the story of life and who knows the twists, turns and sub-plots of this epic which is life (and death). However, I don't think the actual title of 'author' is used of God the Creator in the Bible. But it is used a couple of times about Jesus.

The New Testament writer of Hebrews calls Jesus the 'author and perfecter of our faith' (Heb 12:2) I'll need to give some thought as to what it means to be the author of my faith.

Luke also uses the term in Acts 3:15 as 'the author of life'. It's used in reference to Christ's death which leads me on to this thought: that the Author of Life, while suffering on the cross, crys out, 'My God. Why have you forsaken me?' - calling on the author to explain.

Much thought has obviously gone into the lyrics - proved by the fact that I had to go and look up the word 'prolix'. (I think that little refrain may be key to what Nick Cave is trying to say...but I'm not sure yet what that is!)

Nick Coke said...

Welcome back Cosmo! I missed my most loyal reader...

I too had to look up 'prolix' in the dictionary and I too didn't come to any particular conclusions about what he was trying to say.

Of course this song might actually not be about God at all! It's my particular take and I suppose it's meant to work on lots of levels. It's also a questioning of the role of 'authorship' - I suspect the 'prolix' bit is about authors who write a lot but say nothing...

Chris said...

Well that's convinced me to go out and get Nick Cave's latest album.