Cave in

Pub date May 23, 2006
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer


SONIC REDUCER Pop styles of the oh-so-rich and silly!

Britney Spears nearly drops her infant son, baby in one hand, drink in the other, while angling through an NYC crowd! And so soon after being bitch-slapped by the paparazzi for misusing her infant car seat! Oops, she can’t do anything right!

Blaming "media intrusion" for his marital breakup, prenup-less Beatle Paul McCartney promises to hit the charts with the most costly divorce in Brit(pop) history at an estimated $188 to $376 million. Most referenced Beatles lyric: "Can’t buy me love"!

Gossip so slight it’s surreal comes and goes. What remains are the exclamation pointfree, consistently sinister talents of Nick Cave now back in form as the screenwriter of John Hillcoat’s bloody, lyrical Australian western, The Proposition. His red right hand extends to yet another film opening this week in the Bay Area, Olivier Assayas’s Clean, which features sometime Bad Seed James Johnston playing a simian-mugged ’80s rock star you rang? whose death by overdose leaves the addict mother of his child, Emily (Maggie Cheung), high and struggling to dry out.

Bathing in bloodshed and unflinchingly embracing the visceral, The Proposition immediately brought to mind the other recent movie by another rocker with punk, metal, and underground roots who hit a commercial peak in the early ’90s and found a temporary home in the arms of an Alternative Nation: The Devil’s Rejects, by Rob Zombie. The two movies might be seen as spiritual kin if not responses to each other and might even be read as thinly disguised metaphors for life on the road in a rock band: Cave’s bespattered, greasy, tangled-haired outback outlaws would blend in fine at Lollapalooza, while the do-you-want-to-stop-for-ice-cream-or-to-disbowel-passing-strangers repartee between Zombie’s killer hillbillies on the lam smells like a kind of sociopathic teen spirit, circa ’92. The fact that the Rejects the very title of the film sounds like a band name torture a C&W band reads as uncensored rock ’n’ roll ribaldry to me.

Cave, on the other hand, takes hellfire, carnage, and, once again, torture scenes seriously: His is a morality play, with a fatalistic acknowledgment of the way race and class operate in an Australian frontier injustice system. Likewise, rather than relying on crowd-pleasing rock akin to that in Rejects, Cave and Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis unveil a shockingly restrained, elegiac, occasionally screeching score for The Proposition, now available on Mute.

Clean wasn’t written by Cave, but his dark yet redemptive residue is all over it. The main flaw in this otherwise graceful tale of a jet-set junk-bird’s descent, flight, then ascent is the fact that the finale falls flat: This movie is all about the hangers-on, the incidental characters orbiting an absent, dark hole of a star, so when Cheung finally takes the mic and dares to fill the void left by her dead lover, her performance should have hit some Marianne Faithfullesque lowlife high. Still, amid Assayas’s detailed, obvious pleasure depicting ex-wife Cheung floundering after her man’s passing, Cave look-alike Johnston gets in a few of the most memorable, candid lines in Clean when he tells Cheung that his latest album is simply mediocre, and while he may make better once again, he’ll settle for whatever he can get to put it out now.

Why Cave now? Perhaps the culture is finally ready for his plain, unpleasant truths; his horror stories; and his scary, survivor’s revisioning of reality. Dubbing him goth is too easy; calling him Johnny Cash’s black-suited successor, facile. He’s proof that one can go to hell and back.

Stealin’ and Gilman Is anyone beginning to feel like Jack White’s voice is a little like squeaky tires doing donuts on chalkboard? No? Excellent, because the Raconteurs, his current band with other mad Midwestern too-cool-for-schoolies, have put out a pretty swell rock record, digging into late-’70s to late-’80s sounds, be they Romantics-style new wave or AOR hair-band histrionics. And by gum, don’t they look like the Replacements in the above promo pic miming a much reproduced Let It Beera ’Mats photo? A tribute to off-the-cuff randomness? … The rock never quite stops Bay Area party starters Rock ’n’ Roll Adventure Kids are back, recording a new album and playing shows once again. This week’s is a doozy: 924 Gilman’s annual Punk Prom for students who can’t afford the high price of dull high schoolapproved entertainment. Costumes, dancing, and like-minded souls sounds like a rock ’n’ roll adventure worth crashing. SFBG


July 23, 8 p.m.

Warfield, 982 Market, SF.


(415) 775-7722

Punk Prom

Fri/26, 8 p.m.

924 Gilman, Berk.


Quit moping

Kultur Shock

Gypsy-inspired punk mixes it up with bilingual thrashers La Plebe. Wed/24, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $10. (415) 621-4455.

Tough and Lovely

Garage rock, ’60s soul, and girl group are all within groping distance. Thurs/25, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $6. (415) 923-0923. Sat/27, Stork Club, 2330 Telegraph, Oakl. Call for time and price. (415) 444-6174.

Grind and Glory hip-hop conference

15- to 25-year-olds are invited to get down and throw their hands in the air at this DJ Project music conference with Dead Prez, Amp Live, and Jurassic 5’s Chali 2Na. Sat/27, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., 425 Market, SF. Free.


That’s Mr. Beast to you. Turge-rockers Earth open. Sat/27, 9 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $22.50. (415) 346-6000.


The band takes punk to the jagged cliffs where politics and art meet and dance a jig. Tues/30, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8. (415) 621-4455. SFBG