On 25 September 1999 Nick Cave gave a lecture called ‘The Love Song’ at the Atelierhaus der Akademie der Bildenden Kunste in Vienna. In that lecture Cave argued that the love song is an inherently sad one, full of pain and loss, but that it also includes God in the picture, for the love song is nothing less than a prayer. I use this lecture as the starting point for my discussion of the love song in the music of Nick Cave, although I do so with a particular twist, namely, the question of redemption. These love songs may be overflowing with pain and God, so much so that I would call them ‘brutally divine’, but I wish to know whether they offer any redemption. Will love save us? Is it a case of no pain, no gain? Or may redemption be found in an entirely other place in the love songs? In what follows I seek to answer these questions in four stages. I begin with a brief discussion of Cave’s lecture, focussing on what he does say, what is barely said, and what is neglected; the next two sections deal with two ways in which pain appears in Cave’s songs, one where pain is suffered, and the other where pain is inflicted; finally, I look for redemption in a few unlikely places.
Literature & Aesthetics Vol. 19, Issue 2, p. 159-168