Friday, September 9, 2016

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - One More Time with Feeling

Last night I went to Hollywood's historic Egyptian Theatre to attend the premiere screening of Andrew Dominick's new film One More Time With Feeling, the documentary that follows Nick Cave's creative process for the new album Skeleton Tree, out today. The film is dark and beautiful; a true document of a family's grief in a time of unrelenting tragedy.

Skeleton Tree was on sale a day early at the select theatres that participated in last night's screening. Of course I purchased a copy and listened to it on my drive home after the screening. Both the album and the film are massive, world-rending documents of Nick Cave at this point in time and space. There is so much pain, so much chaos in the wake of his loss, and brother it's stitched in wounds across both these two pieces of art.

You'll notice I keep coming back to the word 'document' while referring to the film and now the album. There's no other word for either, and while that's to be expected of the film - as it is a 'documentary' - my reference to the album in the same capacity deserves some explanation.

In 2014's film 20,000 Days On Earth Cave talks about his creative processHe talks about and shows us his office - an integral part of the creation of every album; a room within which Cave gestates his ideas; a room that eventually becomes both a shrine and a tombstone to the album of the moment. A room that he eventually finds easier to replace than to strike back to zero. At the time this window into his process felt like an enormous revelation for me, and yet in retrospect it was really no real surprise at all. Cave's output is almost more literary than musical and as such I'd always indirectly imagined him growing into the space around him while creating*. Seeing it in 20,000 Days on Earth (pictured above) that space felt very womb-like; apropos, as his ideas eventually do shatter their chrysalis and emerge into the world as albums, books, movies. All the output from Cave and his band we know and love, all of which have previously had one thing in common - the final product a much-slaved over work of intricate perfection.

Skeleton Tree is not this AT ALL.

Skeleton Tree is a document - a beautifully flawed "capture" of time and emotion; a raw, emotively heavy excretion of pain and suffering and a sudden uncertainty expressed by Nick Cave and his world by Nick Cave and his world. Everyone involved is in pain, everyone involved is overcome by emotion, and everyone involved does not quite see what the next chapter will bring. A hard-won certainty - at his life, his career, his process, his mind and his family - is gone and Cave stands on a precipice that seems both devastating and sickeningly exhilarating. Andrew Dominik is a friend of Cave's and as such was allowed unprecedented access to both his process and grief. Thus, One More Time with Feeling is a hard watch. It is also a must for fans of Mr. Cave's. This is a man's soul laid bare through his process and its resulting art, and it is beautiful in the way that cemeteries, death and sorrow so often are despite the fact that from our perspective we are unable to see them as such.

Godspeed Nick Cave. My heart - a mere whisper in the darkness surrounding your world - goes out to you and your family.


 *An image I believe first struck me when I first attempted to read his novel When the Ass Saw the Angel - a book I did not finish and have been meaning to come back to now for about eleven years. Might be time.

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