Last week Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea called Nick Cave “the greatest living songwriter” whilst waxing lyrical about the importance of a strong work ethic. Is he right? He might be.
Cave’s contribution to music cannot be doubted. Just think about some of 2011’s best albums. Cat’s Eyes, John Maus, The Horrors, S.C.U.M – all indebted to some degree to the Cave’s camp-noir.
Most singers are lucky to have one great album or one great band in their careers. Cave, rather selfishly, has been in three great bands and had released a huge number of absolutely essential singles and albums. From the grot-rock of The Birthday Party to the genre defying work with the Bad Seeds through to the elemental angst of Grinderman, Cave has consistently pushed his ambition and music to the nth degree.
What makes his songwriting so captivating is the way he re-visits his lyrical themes: the stalwarts of sex, death and religion. Big Topics, sure, but the way Cave deals with them is always illuminating, original and makes you feel like you’re actually getting cleverer by listening to them.
For me, he’s up there with Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed, legends whose literary wordplay sits head and shoulders above the rest. But what do you think?