Sunday Morning, (Snow) Coming Down

Random sporty and musical musings and observations as the weight of the impending Nor’easter hangs over spring’s neck like a barometric guillotine . . .

1. The beloved Royals lost yesterday, while the woeful Nationals won, dropping Kansas City into a tie for the worst record in the Major Leagues. This is early, even by their standards. Go team! (As noted in the prior post, I’ve always been a fan of Washington-based teams, so I’ve kind of adopted the Nats as my favorite National League team. Imagine my pleasure at having two basement-dwellers to root for now!)

2. About half way through the NBA season, the Washington Wizards had the best record in the Eastern Conference, and I was stoked to predict that they would be the designated sacrifical lamb set before Dallas in this year’s Finals. Now, though, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler are riding the bench with injuries, the Wizards are barely holding on to a .500 record, and a first round demise to Miami or Detroit looks more likely. Go team!

3. My hockey faves, the Washington Capitals, didn’t bother to make the playoffs this year. Again. (Go team!) So I’m pulling for all the Canadian teams in their absence. Let’s toss ’em a bone and let them have back Lord Stanley’s Cup for a year. It would make them so very happy. And no one knows what to do with it in Nashville, Atlanta or Anaheim any way.

4. On a rare positive sports note for me, I am loving the fact that the two colleges I have attended (Navy and Albany) are both highly ranked in Lacrosse this year. I feel all but certain that they will meet in the first round of the playoffs this year, just to spite me.

5. Musically, I am totally agog and ga-ga this week over the new Grinderman album, the best thing Nick Cave has produced since 1996’s Murder Ballads. Cave is one of the most potent, powerful and visceral performers I’ve ever seen live or heard in a studio. His work with The Birthday Party and early incarnations of the Bad Seeds was literate and frightening, and delivered with an intensity that has rarely, if ever, been matched in contemporary musical history. (Marcia and I saw the Bad Seeds play in a Gothic meeting room at Georgetown University while she was pregnant with Katelin; we both consider it the finest concert we ever saw).

Since ’96 or so, though, Cave and company have generally explored more laconic and placid musical forms, especially after long-time noisy collaborator Blixa Bargeld left the band. The Bad Seeds swelled into something too big to be a rock band, but too small to be a big band. It always seemed like there was either too much going on, or too many people just marking time in many of their recent songs and albums. I frankly haven’t much cared for any of the albums during this period, since I find Cave to be far less entertaining in his piano balladeer mode than I do when he’s playing the part of ominous raving musical lunatic.

There was a glimmer of hope last year when Cave and company performed a couple of songs on Hal Willner’s Rogues Gallery collection of pirate songs and sea shanties: their take on “Fire Down Below” evinced the malice, darkness, and humor that had been woefully absent from so many of their later works. Grinderman now takes that a step further: Cave has cut the Bad Seeds in half, keeping only Warren Ellis (violin), Martyn Casey (bass) and Jim Sclavunos (drums), while Cave himself plays guitar, a first for him. The songs are raw and ragged, the performances passionate. It’s mean and dirty and ragged as all get out, but Cave sounds more convinved and convincing on this record than he has in ages. Bravo for a fiery return to form!

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