Nick Cave Monday #42: “We Call Upon the Author”


Many songs by Nick have a way of throwing you down for a good tickling and then, when everything is happy times, he’ll lyrically smack you upside the head. Pay attention, he’s going deeper than that.

He’ll sing you a lullaby before dropping you to the floor and sticking his boot on your throat. As you black out he tells you it’s all a joke. Relax.

After that he flicks a cigarette butt into your milk and heads to the door. As you catch your breath he’ll turn around with an evil grin. Because you’re not done yet. There’s more to come.

“We Call Upon the Author” from 2008:

How about Warren on those pedals? That song is magical live, when they switch tempo to something that could be a Nine Inch Nails song for a bit, then right back into the narrative string.

It’s such a fit for the lyrics while Nick yells “Prolix, prolix, there’s nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix.”

It suggests editing and even reminds me of the cut ups that William S. Burroughs used to do. Drop another song in there and see what it sounds like. It works, do it Warren.

What is the meaning of life? Why was there a holocaust? Why did Nick’s friend/relative die with tubes up his nose clutching a rosary? Is there someone or something up there to answer Nick?

“He said, everything is messed up ’round here, everything is banal and jejune,
There’s a planetary conspiracy against the likes of you and me,
In this idiot constituency of the moon,
Well, he knew exactly who to blame.”

So, this God figure is like, hey, I got my own shit going on and the moon is after us too.

Later in the song:

“I feel like a vacuum cleaner, a complete sucker,
It’s fucked up and he is a fucker.”

So explain poverty, third world debt, infectious disease, what’s the deal?

Alright then, let’s look to the authors of our planet. Bukowski? Nah, he’s just a jerk.

During an interview many years ago Nick Cave suggested that kids read the bible instead of Bukowski.

At the time I was a Bukowski groupie, as I believe every writer should have a Bukowski fetish for a short period then get over it and move on…so when Nick said that I was a bit hurt because I’m one of those guys who has actually read the bible cover to cover…and was about to put in my Bukowski groupie time.

Berryman, John Berryman, now there’s a poet we can rely on. “But he went the Hemingway.” Killed himself.

I adore how Nick uses Hemingway as a verb.

So more authors are published, “another volume of unreconstructed rubbish” and they keep coming and we thank them and ask them to explain. We’re still looking.

Today’s lesson is that we aren’t going to get answers to our large lingering questions, but we can edit our own lives and create narratives for ourselves until the universe figures out its shit.

“I said prolix, prolix, there’s nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix.”

And the word for this week is prolix. Try to include it in a sentence once a day to impress others or even find a lover. You’re smart. You’re a Bad Seeder.

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 →