Nick Cave

By: Tor Aarestad
September 22, 2011

As patriotic events come round — Independence Day, anniversaries of 9/11, nationally televised football games — a crew of musicians elbows each other for favored status. These are the Carries, the Lees, the Peas. Some country, some pleasantly diverse and flashy, uniformly happy and loving the USA. Although never properly embraced as such, Australian-born NICK CAVE (born 1957) may truly be Red State America’s balladeer. Surrounding himself for decades with a succession of the finest bands you’ll ever see — The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds, Grinderman — Cave sings about the America of McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, of Eastwood’s Man With No Name: “On a gathering storm comes a tall handsome man / In a dusty black coat with a red right hand.” No Jesus taking the wheel or God blessing the USA. Devils and sin, longing and sudden violence, fatalism and God’s judgment: this is good old-fashioned religion. Cave is the Loverman, the devil waiting outside your door: “And he’s old and he’s stupid and he’s hungry and he’s sore / And he’s lame and he’s blind and he’s dirty and he’s poor.” Cave fashions himself a sort of dark Jesus, taking onto himself all of our evil urges and failings, the Id Supreme. From Birthday-Party-era and diaper-wearing Nick the Stripper (“hideous to the eye” “a fat little insect”) to Bad Seed Cave’s narrator of the Murder Ballads (“Well Jerry Bellows, he hugged his stool / Closed his eyes and shrugged and laughed / And with an ashtray as big as a fucking really big brick / I split his head in half”), Cave provides us salvation through anti-catharsis. Take that, Carrie Underwood and your Louisville Slugger.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Joan Jett.

READ MORE about members of the Original Generation X (1954-63).


HiLo Heroes, Music