Monday, June 15, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #14

LONDON - MAY 09:  Nick Cave of Grinderman perf...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

If you had asked me 25 years ago to speculate on who would become the elder statesmen of Punk/New Wave/Post Punk/Alternative/Whatever-you-wanna-call-this Music, Nick Cave's name would not have been anywhere near the top of my list. His band at the time, The Birthday Party, while one of my favorites, was certainly an acquired taste, often spewing out discordant shrieking mutant swamp-blues like Captain Beefheart in a foul mood. Nick himself seemed unlikely to survive the next 25 years. His infamous heroin habit left him a gaunt, almost spectral figure to behold; pictures of him in full-blown junkie nod were common.

But here we are in 2009, and Nick Cave has been clean for ten years and has been making music non-stop for thirty-plus. After The Birthday Party dissolved, he formed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and created sinister pseudo-countrified dirges that were a bit easier on the ears; his solo work has seen him team up with fellow Aussie Kylie Minogue in a "this doesn't seem right but somehow it works" ballad "Where the Wild Roses Grow," which will haunt you to your core; his side-project combo Grinderman harkens back to some of the terror of The Birthday Party's finest moments filtered through Bad Seeds era eerie calm. He is a novelist, an actor, a painter. He has indeed become one of the most important figures to emerge out of that Post Punk scene.

But, oh, where it all started!

Nick and some of his school chums formed his first band, The Boys Next Door, in the early '70s; as the Punk and New Wave scene began to infiltrate his native Australia in the form of bands like The Saints and Radio Birdman, so The Boys Next Door's music began to evolve to mesh with that sound. The Boys Next Door would eventually release one incredible album, Door Door, and an EP, Hee Haw, both in 1979. That same year, they would have a decent Australian hit with a murky ballad, "Shivers," which was among the first things Nick Cave recorded that sounded like what most people think of when they think of Nick Cave.

Indeed, The Boys Next Door would essentially morph into The Birthday Party; Hee Haw would be re-released as a Birthday Party record with all references to the previous band name expunged.

Our clip this week is a real gem: a very young Nick Cave in front of The Boys Next Door in 1978, performing the almost bubblegum-sounding "The Nightwatchman." This gooey piece of New Wave goodness captures an nearly exuberant Nick Cave pre-Birthday Party muck, pre-Bad Seeds sinisterness, and obviously pre-heroin. Enjoy and be amazed:

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