Nick Cave: Putting art through a ‘righteous sieve’ leaves us with ‘the bland and morally obvious’

Australian singer said 1996 album ‘Murder Ballads’ was violent ‘towards everybody’

Inga Parkel
Wednesday 05 July 2023 10:09 BST
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Nick Cave has warned against removing everything that might be deemed “unrighteous” in art, as he responded to claims that his studio album Murder Ballads includes lyrics that are violent towards women.

The Australian singer-songwriter, 65, released the album in 1996 with his band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

In a recent interview, Cave said he’s glad his music has the capacity to “outrage” and argued that the LP was violent not just to women, but to everyone.

“Some of my early lyrics with The Birthday Party [band], the Murder Ballads record, this kind of thing, there was violence towards women, but there was actually violence towards everybody,” he stated on the latest episode of The Louis Theroux Podcast.

“They were just violent records. There were heroic women, and female murderers, and all sorts of stuff going on in that record, and songs before that,” he said.

“But I’m not personally a misogynist,” Cave added. “I don’t have those inclinations but I liked to write songs that were violent in those days.”

He explained that he “just enjoyed the thrill of language, being able to write about violent things in the same way that a thriller writer maybe likes to write about violent things too”.

Discussing the ongoing debate surrounding censorship in art, Cave said that “the number one thing” punks did was challenge people’s virtues.

“This troubling of the waters, that is the self-evident value of art and that if we’re to put art through a kind of righteous sieve and take all the unrighteous bits out, what we get is just the bland and the morally obvious,” he said.

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Nick Cave

Earlier this year, Cave admitted that “rage lost its all allure” after the death of his first son in 2015. Arthur was 15 when died after falling from a cliff in Sussex.

In his Red Hand Files newsletter, the musician said that losing his son felt like coming face-to-face with “actual devastation” and said he “felt a sudden, urgent need to, at the very least, extend a hand in some way to assist it – this terrible, beautiful world – instead of merely vilifying it, and sitting in judgement of it”.

Cave also lost his elder son Jethro Lazenby in 2022.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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