Monday, 7 July 2008

Monday Morning Face Off # 3

I love it when the same song gets twisted in two very different directions. Dylan’s Death Is Not The End has an inbuilt ambiguity – the tension between the horror of the verses and the soothing message of the chorus is always going to be somewhat unsettling – but his original version leans towards hope and comfort, the idea that no matter how desperately hard this life becomes, something better awaits.

Nick Cave’s cover version, on the other hand, uses a hell-choir consisting of, among others, Blixa Bargeld, PJ Harvey, Shane MacGowan and Kylie Minogue to forward another view. Without changing a word, he leaps on the song’s ambiguity like a highwayman and ransacks it for all he’s worth. The net result is a blackly comic evocation of a world where the myriad horrors of earthly existence are destined to be replayed over and over and over again into eternity. If death is not the end, then there is no end to our suffering. As a man in a moustache and singlet once asked, who wants to live forever?

I know which one I like best. What about you?


Anonymous said...

Ever heard the Waterboys version of this song? It's awesome!

Graeme Thomson said...

Yes, the Waterboys version is a cracker - and the absolute antithesis of the Cave one in that it offers comfort and reassurance.

I talked with Mike Scott for the book, if you're a fan. He has a fascinating angle on the subject of death and music.