Tuesday, July 27

Mark Mordue’s Boy on Fire Review – Nick Cave’s Pre-Fame Years | Biography books

TOAt 63, singer-songwriter Nick Cave has an urban figure, almost sanctified. Currently based in Brighton, this scholarly career artist’s recurring concern, since the 2015 death of Arthur, one of his teenage sons, has been to transmute deep pain in beauty.

Yet for many decades, Cave was at the forefront of a number of gangs whose confrontational performances faced threat, upheaval, and profoundly bodily concerns. At 20, he was a goth aficionado, a heroin addict whose reflections on toxic masculinity and God, outlaws, and doom fueled a succession of boastful gangs and an enduring myth.

This fascinating book ends where Cave’s fame, or infamy, really begins: when an Australian gang called the boys next door he boarded a plane bound for London in 1980. When they landed, they had changed their name to Birthday Party and would leave a lasting sulfuric mark on the international post-punk music scene. The Birthday Party spawned Bad Seeds, the band that Nick Cave often continues to lead to this day, although Cave’s most recent album Butcher shop, he became penned with a single current seed, Warren Ellis. There have been many victims in 40 years, literally and figuratively. As dear as this musician, Author Y filmmaker is that, like Byron, it has been quite dangerous to know.

Other biographies and documentaries have covered this ground before. What is different about the Australian? Mark bittenThe portrait of the young Cave and his formative influences is the narrowness of the author’s scope, and its vast breadth, within that focus. This was, initially, a much bigger book this had to be rethought when the death of Arthur Cave and a crisis in the author’s own life made it difficult to continue his previous career.

Forensically researched, Mordue’s book pokes fun at Cave’s deep Australianness, rivers and brush, and incipient violence that Cave’s writings later mixed with gothic atmospheres of the American South. It begins with a prologue in 2007, with Cave ambivalently accepting an Aria award after a life outside of Australia, whose record industry never knew what to do with it.

What follows is a social story of two decades of artistic and intellectual life in Australia: Cave and many of his friends used to be art students. He and his fellow travelers were educated and almost pretentious, as well as dark and rebellious. Here are atmospheric depictions of life in the city of Wangaratta in Cave’s childhood (“the idyllic substructure upon which sad tales of corrupted innocence can rest,” Mordue writes) and Melbourne’s alternative music scene. Inside is a nuanced, unbiased and knowledgeable portrait of “a Sinatra of the dark” who had the right mix of drive, narcissism, cheek, kismet, support, and artistic curiosity to make a long-term living from his feverish imagination.

Cueva, second from right, with Boys Next Door in the late 70s
Cave, second right, with Boys Next Door in the late 1970s. Photography: Ashley Mackevicius

Mordue is particularly good with young Nick, an intellectually talented but rebellious young man who devoured ideas and perfected poses. Fans will recognize the seismic moments in Cave’s life: the unhappy transfer to boarding school, where he met the core of his future gang, and the untimely death of his father, the great Colin Cave, with whom the young Nick had. long fight.

That helix of adolescent love, competition, and resentment came to an abrupt end when the elderly Cave was killed in a car accident; he had strayed for reasons that no one could fully understand. Days earlier, his son had been arrested for stealing an ornate chair in a drunken, drug-fueled prank, the detail of which is unclear to this day: the implication is that Nick Cave took the blame for a friend and his father never knew how. noble had been her wandering son. Later, Bad Seeds used to tour Australia in the summer, to be with Cave’s mother, Dawn, on the anniversary of Colin’s death. (She died last year, 93 years old.)

Mordue speaks to a large number of witnesses over a decade, embodying the well-known history of punk rock with a rich perspective on art history, and delves into Cave’s obsessions with works such as Dostoevsky’s. Crime and Punishment. A key witness eludes him: Anita Lane, Cave’s most important female foil of the time, is cited only indirectly.

The great strength of Mordue is that he is not a professional, distant and omniscient biographer; he is a writer with his own stylistic flourishes who intimately understands the medium in which he writes. If he is a little prone to becoming eloquent, it is excusable; he is like a terrier in his efforts to understand how the boy became the father of the man.

Boy on Fire: Young Nick Cave by Mark Mordue is published by Allen & Unwin (£ 20). To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply


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