Culture Trips

How Nick Cave’s biography revealed a long-held case of mistaken identity | Nick Cave

Nick Cave has been squatting rent-free in my mind all week. On Thursday, he and collaborator Warren Ellis released an album – Carnage every bit as consuming as its predecessor, 2019’s Ghosteen. By day, I heard Cave swinging from swagger to sorrow. By night, I juggled a massive hardback: Boy On Fire, the forthcoming biography of Cave’s early years by Australian journalist Mark Mordue.

The best detail so far: it turns out the choirmaster at Cave’s childhood church was a certain Father Paul James Harvey. “Years later,” writes Mordue, “when The Boatman’s Call was released in 1997, the bishop of Wangaratta would read a news article mentioning the influence of a PJ Harvey on the album’s songs, and would proudly mention the enduring impact of Nick’s old choirmaster to an appreciative congregation.” The Boatman’s Call was, in fact, inspired by Cave’s relationship with one Polly Jean Harvey

A Daft farewell

The art of emoting inside a helmet has risen to new heights thanks to Pedro Pascal’s valuable work in The Mandalorian. Last week, though, adored electronic duo Daft Punk broke up mysteriously via a video that has been viewed more than 22m times, setting that bar a notch higher again.

What were the two casqued Frenchmen communicating to each other, before one detonated the other? I have no inside scoop to offer. “This is the way,” you can imagine Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo saying sternly to Thomas Bangalter.

It has always been a weird, sensual pleasure to type those words, “Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo”, every time the occasion arose. I’m going to miss that. But not as much as I am going to regret not ever hearing their knock-down, titanium-plated swansong Random Access Memories (2013) played live.

Wild pleasures

We counted 44 young leaves of wild garlic in the garden last week. I have a tedious digestive issue which rules out eating the bulb, so I am officially no fun any more – to cook for, or to take out to dinner, even when it becomes possible. Ramsons, as the plant is also known, are one way to secure a safe garlic fix. These brave shoots promise at least a couple of meals of emerald-hued, nuclear-grade allium pesto.

We are all probably all well past the point of stoically appreciating all those alleged silver linings in our current predicament. But one of the upsides of lockdown has been a licence to gorge on this thuggish spring weed without worrying about standing next to someone at a gig afterwards.

Festival fever

Speaking of lockdown, Monday’s roadmap out of it appeared to mean various things to different sets of eyes, depending on the lens applied. A number of festivals have taken that fudgy, pencilled-in aspiration of June as a time for loosening restrictions, and have announced their summer shows will go on.

As has been observed, I am no fun any more, so I feel an uneasy ambivalence. Boosterism for live music is part of my job description. I’d love to hear bass through a proper rig again. It’s understandable that – given the lack of Covid-19 support for the music industry – the artists, the grassroots venues, crews, freelancers- everyone involved must be keen to start earning some wad, and maybe have some fun. But what part of “pilot events” and “data not dates” and “no guarantee” did festivals choose not to understand? The need for some sort of insurance is key. Will the under-50s really all be vaccinated by July? It won’t be a summer of love if excess deaths result.

• Kitty Empire is the Observer’s pop critic

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