Rock: ‘the music of the aging’?

Sunday’s Guardian featured an article on the phenomenon of aging rockers. Paul McCartney is singled out as an artist who seems unwilling to write about what it’s like to be getting old. However, Grinderman is mentioned as a stand-out example of the opposite.

As all this happens themes of age and experience are finally entering the music. Grinderman, the project led by the Australian singer Nick Cave (54), was purposely created as an outlet for the angst of advancing years, as evidenced by the charmingly titled No Pussy Blues: “I changed the sheets on my bed / I combed the hairs across my head / I sucked in my gut / And still she said / That she just didn’t want to.”

I started thinking about the first Grinderman album and how much I admired its honesty.  This is what it feels like to be Nick Cave in his 50s.  He is no different from any other man (or woman) in feeling a horrified awareness and raging sorrow at the body’s inevitable decline.

My face is finished/My body’s gone
And I can’t help but think standin’ up here in all this applause
and gazin’ down at all the young and the beautiful.
With their questioning eyes.
That I must above all things love myself.

Grinderman 2 did exactly that: it loved itself.  It was like a recently divorced Dad who gets his own a flat and buys a sports car and keeps the nightstand drawer stocked with Viagra, multicolored condoms, and maybe a little bondage gear.  It was fresh and brutal and real.  It wasn’t a sappy, ‘woe-is-me’ because old age sucks, or any of that.  It was a mature man screaming, “I’m not going down without a fight. This is my virility now, this is my down and fucking dirty sexuality, and tough shit if you can’t handle it, because older men still get horny, so let’s take this conversation into the bedroom, shall we darling, and get it while we can.”

Perhaps that’s why so many people mourned the end of Grinderman.  They reminded us that yes, life is too fucking short, but it does not have to be a bitter, sad, or boring affair.

I don’t know if there will be another Bad Seeds album.  But I don’t want it to go in the opposite direction and be all sad and mournful.  (Melancholy is a luxury of youth.)  Rather, I hope for a potent mixture of cheating, lying, and sardonic savagery right alongside the tender, wistful, bittersweet, fearsome, and brutal rapture of human love and sexuality.  I want language and music that describes what it feels like to have lived more than fifty years on this spinning blue ball: the full-on, stunning, sublime, and terrifying range of life experience.

Not too tall of an order for the likes of Nick Cave.

– Morgan Wolfe, February 20, 2012

See: “Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan? That’s the sound of ageing” –  by John Harris (19/02/12)


4 thoughts on “Rock: ‘the music of the aging’?

  1. @Dotty Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed my post. I’m with you, just keep it coming, Nick 🙂

    More thoughts on this topic:

    While I could not say what is in Nick’s mind about aging, I don’t think he’s any different from most people when it comes to feeling anxiety about getting older in our youth-worshiping Western culture. I think ‘No Pussy Blues’ is the most explicit lyrical example of that discomfort coming from Nick. Grinderman was unique insofar as they aggressively addressed the reality of aging in their debut single and then rejected it through their performances.

    As the article points out, most bands who keep touring into their 50s and 60s tend to rely on material they wrote and performed while in their 20s. Musicians like Paul McCartney and bands like The Rolling Stones have an older fan base to please and subsequent expectations to fulfill. They have to incorporate their ‘oldies’ into the set-lists, even if they are still actively recording new material. Grinderman were the opposite – a new band with completely fresh material written from a middle-aged perspective – and relatively unconstrained by audience expectations.

    Indeed, long time fans Bad Seeds fans who attended to hear weak renditions of The Ship Song were somewhat disappointed. And rightly so. In my opinion, their weakest gigs were their first time out, when they relied on Bad Seeds material to flesh out the sets. This was another band. Once Grinderman had enough of their own songs, they blew the roof off every joint they played. They came into their own in 2010 with Grinderman 2 and reveled in that success on the insane touring schedule that followed its release. However, it couldn’t last forever. Nothing does.

    The thing about getting older is that boredom sets in more quickly. This is exponentially true for artists. Existence is finite; therefore, stasis is anathema. You want to keep moving, to keep exploring new forms of expression, and to work with different people. That’s why I try (in my empathetic way) to caution Nick Cave fans that it’s unwise to expect him to return to the way things were in the past – whether that means wanting him to resurrect The Bad Seeds with Blixa (which is impossible for more reasons than I can list) or getting back with Grinderman.

    Nick’s whole career has been built on thwarting expectations. Why would now be any different? He’s not out of the Game but I doubt that he’ll tip anyone off as to how he intends to play it from here. He has his own set of rules. I say, let him do this his own way and in his own time. I will show up regardless. Nick Cave is one of a kind. We are blessed to have him in any capacity.

    *blows a kiss to Nicky*

  2. Morgan, Excellent post, on many recent interviews and even the on the announcement that Grinderman was more, there was a reference to age. I wonder though, is it something that Nick Cave fears, or is he comfortable with the process, why make reference? are the words wrote out of fear instead of acceptance? I dont know, and suppose really dont care as long as they keep coming!

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