Reviews

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: God Is in the House [DVD]

Dave Heaton

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

God Is in the House [DVD]

Label: Mute
US Release Date: 2003-08-26
UK Release Date: 2003-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

God Is in the House might seem like an unlikely title for a Nick Cave DVD; his discography is ridden with dark tales of murder, illicit desires and mad obsessions. Yet he's always been interested in God's tales -- in Biblical stories in particular -- even as he wouldn't strike anyone as a particularly religious man. After all, he did once write the introduction to a pocket edition of the Gospel According to Mark. Yet in Nick Cave's vision God always seems to have a sinister side. That duality is embodied in Cave's presence on stage. In the 90-minute concert film that makes up the bulk of God Is in the House, Cave is a dapper, slim man in a suit, roaming the stage like an evangelist. But for who is he preaching? On his face is a sly grin, and he's likely to flail his arms and jump about as if temporarily possessed by the holy spirit of Punk Rock.

The concert was filmed in Lyon, France, on 8 June 2001, at a time when Cave and his Bad Seeds were out promoting No More Shall We Part, an album that is distinctly not punk rock. Along with its predecessor The Boatman's Call and, to a slightly lesser extent, their latest album Nocturama, No More Shall We Part marked Cave and band's switch to a more relaxed mode of making music. The textured, almost gentle album uses piano and strings extensively. Yet while half the songs in the God Is in the House concert are ballads from No More Shall We Part and Boatman's Call, every song, fast or slow, is delivered with an intensity that's enough to scare the beejesus out of you, drive you to tears, or do both, depending on the lyrical content and your disposition. The seven members of the Bad Seeds (including now ex-Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld doing serious damage on his guitar and Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three delivering melancholy violin solos) give an impressive backbone to each song, from the slowest love song to the most brazen rockers.

In 90 minutes, Cave and the Bad Seeds manage to hit on something from most of their albums. In between the newer songs they play seriously devilish older numbers like "Saint Huck", which Cave introduces as the first song the Bad Seeds ever wrote, and "The Curse of Millhaven", a gleeful, blood-ridden singalong from the Murder Ballads album. The fact that the fun, "everybody sing along" song where each band member gets introduced for a solo is also a tale of mass murder should give you a sense of where Cave and his audience are at. That's an unfair observation though, as his songs together form an epic tale that's about much more than just death and destruction. His music is eqaully about love and hope, about power struggles, about finding something to believe. God Is in the House does give viewers a solid sense of all of that, too. With one song from The Good Son, one from Henry's Dream, one from Tender Prey, two from Let Love In, and so on, this concert film is not just a snapshot of Cave's music circa 2001, but an overview of what his whole solo career has been about, from 1984 to 2001.

The other films on the DVD are more 2001-focused. One is a nearly 40-minute documentary look at the recording sessions for No More Shall We Part. The others are three music videos for songs from the album. The videos -- for "As I Sat Sadly by Her Side", "Fifteen Feet of Pure Snow", and "Love Letter" -- present the public face of the group at the time, which is mellow and melancholy, both musically and visually. None of them will blow cinema-snobs away, yet all three successfully capture a mix of sadness, beauty and fear. "As I Sat Sadly by Her Side" opens with Cave singing in what appears to be a room of mirrors, with his image spread all around. It at first seems mundane, until behind him appears a series of images, pretty and ugly, from the Ku Klux Klan to a blooming flower. "Fifteen Feet . . ." finds Cave and the Bad Seeds performing to a dancing crowd in a roadhouse somewhere, all of it captured with a dreamy, stylish look reminiscent of David Lynch films. "Love Letter" alternates between Cave playing the song on a television in an abandoned bedroom with pretty, mostly still shots of empty streets and landscapes, emphasizing the sadness behind the singer's love ballad. All three "promotional videos" (as the DVD accurately refers to them) show the way such commercial films can be done artfully, so that the images and music meet in interesting ways.

If the videos represent the glitzy public face the band, No More Shall We Part: The Recording Sessions is the kind of stripped-down portrait that gives a glimpse of the real people and the sometimes arduous process behind making music. Set entirely in the studio, the images that dominate the film of Cave and his bandmates recording takes and then playing them back, of them discussing what to do when, and giving each other advice. There's little overarching commentary about what they're doing, just and endless series of takes and re-takes, interrupted by listening, analyzing and a little bit of goofing around so they don't drive themselves crazy. The film is a compelling portrait of the tedium, precision and cooperation behind making an album. It rounds out the already rounded portrait that God Is in the House offers of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. You witness the band playing their hearts out, posing for promotional purposes, and carefully constructing . . . pretty much everything that's involved in being a rock band.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image