A double-header of sombre brilliance from Mr Cave, from his 1997 album The Boatman’s Call, from a time where he arguably reached a new level of greatness with reflective, quiet, but deeply emotional music. It came after huge upheavals in his life – splitting up with his first wife, the Brazilian journalist Viviane Carneiro, and also a difficult affair with PJ Harvey. He also performed People Ain’t No Good at the funeral of his friend, the INXS singer Michael Hutchence, but with cameras switched off. Twenty years later, following the accidentally death of his son Arthur, dealt with through the album Skeleton Tree, perhaps this is another example of where tragedy in his life and great music collide.
Both songs contain, typically, some extraordinary lyrics capturing every emotion from tenderness and bitterness, as well as powerfully performed music, and some wonderfully vivid images. People ain't no good likely inspired yesterday's song by another Australian band, The Bamboos, but aside from the lyrical parallel, it couldn't be more different:
To our love send a dozen white lilies
To our love send a coffin of wood
To our love let all the pink-eyed pigeons coo
That people they just ain't no good
And with Into My Arms, who else, could begin a song with the profound, yet strangely comic phrase:
I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you.
Cave’s songs also have the quality to transcend their dark context, with Into My Arms, for example appearing in the dryly humorous detective movie Zero Effect (1998) and People Ain’t No Good in Shrek 2. Timeless and profound in all ways.
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