Skip to content

Fuck Politeness

This is a revolution, not a public relations movement

I think I’ve written on here before about my ambivalent relationship with Mr Cave and his music. I tried reading And the Ass Saw the Angel and hated it. I didn’t even get to the women-stuff. I just thought that whole ‘write in the dialect of the group you’re portraying’ is hackneyed. Also it struck me as a little obnoxious for some random Aussie white guy to think he had a novel’s worth of profound insights to glean on a culture that isn’t his own – at I guessed that by choosing a ‘Deep South’ theme you can locate all sorts of abominable violence and abasement in someone else’s culture. But since I can’t be bothered to read it to see if I’m right I’ll have to let others slam him for that one.

Don’t get me wrong: I went to see his Grinderman gig in Sydney a couple of years ago. And I’d absolutely go to see them again, I’d see him alone, with Grinderman, and with the Bad Seeds. He has a presence, and their music has a tight coherence. I adore the levels involved and frequently I adore the lyrics or at least a portion of the lyrics in most songs. In terms of musicians and the albums of theirs I own, I own more of his stuff than anyone else except possibly Leonard Cohen (another musician I have an ambivalent relationship with because of his conceptions of women – at least though Cohen doesn’t ask me to applaud him when he co-opts women’s voices to discuss gang rape in *edgy* songs. He just does the tired thing of idolising youthful femininity and erasing their subjectivity…it’s sad that that’s better but it is).

And Cave? Well I do think he’s intelligent enough to set stuff up and take the piss. But I wonder whether he *is* taking the piss where I attribute a piss take, and when/where he is. Some stuff he’s being clearly ironic about…the women stuff? I really am not so sure. Having read some of his ‘academic’ stuff on love while at Uni I quietly deflated. It was bland, pompous, self indulgent…and a little bit clueless. There was no nuanced understanding of the unhealthiness of the ways in which we ‘do’ love…I can’t remember much except the sound of my eyes slowly rolling back in my head in disappointed boredom. But on the whole, I think there is stuff that I like in there: some scathing lyrics, some silliness, some beauty. However often the beauty is standard fare in terms of subject matter, but I’ve always appreciated twists and turns of phrase enough that it can take a mundane subject matter and make it less mundane, create something special..and Cave can deliver that.
It’s more that I get very very sick and tired of the *ways* in which he decides to be edgy – his forays into death/destruction that others seem to find so inspirational I often find a staggering pain in the arse, work that relies on titilation and reinforcements of standing bigotries, reinscription of the same old power dynamics and that I find deplorable from a man with the intelligence to do more and better. But if you object there are plenty of fans to shoot you down for simply not ‘getting it’. It never occurs that I could ‘get it’ plenty, but that I might simply object to his continuous portrayal of women as things to fuck/rape/murder/bury and if possible some fucked up combination of all four.

Crow Jane? Yes, I know, the fans love it. Me? Well let’s see…how do I feel about a bunch of pampered white guys constructing a song about a woman who lives alone and is therefore *inevitably* brutally gang raped by twenty men who arrive under cover of darkness? It makes my ears ring in fury is how I feel about it. Yes, yes, she goes and hunts them down and kills them. So it’s ok, right? Wrong. It wasn’t their story and as men? They shouldn’t be co-opting it. It’s not like they told it to really get across rape=bad either. Nope. Living alone, she was always a rape-magnet. And wowee fellas, wouldn’t some lives alone recluse woman who gets brutalised by twenty men be a great Revenge Vehicle for Our Plot? And yeah, she slaughters them – after of course they get to ‘pour their pistols dry’. But where for other listeners that might vindicate or undo what was done, for me it fucking well doesn’t. For me, the reality is that women do not get justice after rape, either through the legal system, or in terms of bloody revenge. And I don’t advocate bloody revenge. And even if I did I can see clearly that no woman would get bloody revenge…if they were strong enough to overpower her the first time (of course, 20 men, one woman) how am I meant to believe she had the strength to kill them all before being stopped this time? And the “Croooowwww Jane, Crooooooowwwwwwww Jane” – it bothers me. The mythologising and titillation  of her pain, the mythologising of the exception, the one woman ‘brave’ enough to slaughter them all, the whole fucking song being about her lack of an ability to control her own life and body, to say who can enter her shack and when – yes, yes. It’s a song, it’s fiction, it’s a storytelling…thing is dudes? Gang rape of a woman daring to live alone might be great fairytale fodder for you but for me I don’t WANT my fucking fairy tales to continue to reflect back at me the violence and misogyny of the world: this shit happens and it’s not the ‘fun stuff’ of legend, it’s life and I hate that and I try to change that, not elevate songs about it to the status of ‘greatness’.

Ahem…this here post was meant less to be my rant and more to direct you to a most excellent article on Cave’s misogyny (by way of @audreyapple on Twitter).

I am not quite as scathing about the music as the author, and I have a different take on some lyrics, however she’s right on the money in terms of themes and tone etc.

Thing is she’s being absolutely crucified (apparently – I will not read the comments most places for fear I will sink into a deep and unshakeable depression) and Audrey has written about the way in which she’s being excoriated: not in terms of objections to the argument, they’re playing the woman and not the ball. All the greatest hits are being dredged up and slung at her: shrew/harridin/frigid bitch/sexless joykiller/idiot woman…blah blah fuckity blah.

As I was saying to TBO, the first articlegets at something I’ve been trying to articulate about Cave for ages: that while I love some of his music, that rampant ugly violence towards women is everywhere in his catalogue, and further that what’s mostfrustrating is that the misogyny seems to be what *makes* guys thinkit’s edgy/it’s *art* – the respect towards him/his ‘artist’ statusrenders *his* misogyny “acceptable” or “brave”. And while the songsare (again and again) about women being raped/slaughtered, that it sets up a dynamic where fans of Cave can dismiss women who object to the misogyny as just not ‘getting’ what he’s ‘doing’, as being unable to ‘appreciate’ the allegedly exquisite irony, and that they can
perceive with their specially non-tainted-with-feminism brains that Cave has something more profound to say about women’s oppression and annihilation than women themselves. And hi…the irony in *that*scenario?

It’s something that I’ve been trying again and again to get at: where men just get to ‘enjoy the music’ I face a choice and a shit one at that: embrace songs which reflect back to me that I am less than fully human (the muse or object in Cohens music, the murder victim/murderer, the crazy bitch/the bitch who makes men crazy in Cave’s, or say ‘Polly’ in Nirvana’s ‘Polly’); or to find ways to justify (oh, no…see, in Polly they’re critiquing women’s position…oh…aren’t they???) or ignore (ignore that Cohen sees you as supernaturally beautiful beings til around 25, after which ‘the stars leave your body, the wind leaves you cold’…yep chickabees, you’re always dying, always decaying, always falling further from fuckability) the rampant bullshit misogyny because I don’t want to be locked out of music that I love.

Ok. Fuck this shit. I’m off for a massage.


%d bloggers like this: