Nick Cave Monday #25: “Abattoir Blues”


Sometimes things get murky in our brains. The depression takes hold. It’s more than melancholy, it’s to the point of absolute despair.

“Abattoir Blues” is the title track on the double album released with “Lyre of Orpheus” by The Bad Seeds in 2004. With their intent on keeping things fresh for every new release, the band brought in the London Gospel Community Choir. Not only for the recording, but also for the world tour.

If Nick was playing the role of a preacher on earlier records, he took it to a whole new height here. Members of the choir didn’t know who Nick Cave was and received their education fast. They were also Christians, so they needed to be okay with the songs. (More on that in a few months when we get to “Hidin’ All The Way.”)

Why is it when Nick calls upon outside people to help him out they don’t know who he is? Us fans would die for a chance to perform as part of The Bad Seeds. It makes me depressed. It gives me the “Abattoir Blues.”

Only Nick Cave could make a Starbucks drink sound sinister and violent. Is Frappucino a metaphor? Is he giving a dig to our global world of Starbucks in almost every city, partially responsible for turning the world’s metropolises into generic strip malls? That bums me out too.

Nick calls out to his lady for some understanding and comfort.

Can she sees what he sees? “Mass extinction darling, hypocrisy, these things are not good for me.”

An abattoir is literally defined as a slaughterhouse…where they kill the animals for meat. It’s from the French the word abattre, which means to strike down. Abattoir is also used to imply something is as devastating as entering a slaughterhouse to be killed with the rest of the animals.

Later he wants a way out with his lady. “Can we leave this place now dear? Is there someway out of here?”

Ah, but life goes moves forward here on this planet and we have to plug away as humans. One of the oddly inspirational lyrics from Nick Cave for me comes in the last verse of the song:

“I awake with the sparrows and hurry off to work/
the need for validation, babe, gone completely berserk/
I wanna be your superman but I turned out such a jerk/
I got the Abattoir Blues….”

The creative life is a topsy-turvy existence and we can’t avert our eyes to the crap going around us…we just have to get back to work. Sometimes that takes its toll on our relationships, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to find a woman who understands.

That’s part of my abattoir blues. Your abattoir blues mileage may vary.

Thanks for reading and come back next week for another edition of Nick Cave Monday.

Tony DuShane is the author of Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk. His writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, Penthouse, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Believer. And, if you’re a Nick Cave fan, check out Nick Cave Monday. More from this author →