The Boatman’s Call,
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Mute/Reprise , March 4, 1997
Track Listing: 1. Into My Arms, 2. Lime-Tree Arbour, 3. People Ain’t No Good, 4. Brompton Oratory, 5. There Is a Kingdom, 6. (Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For?, 7. Where Do We Go Now but Nowhere?, 8. West Country Girl, 9. Black Hair, 10. Idiot Prayer, 11. Far From Me, 12. Green Eyes
Bus depots have a way of erasing faces and lives alike. On the outskirts of town, just beyond the vibe of life, the depot’s dirty walls and dank floors provide a bleak setting for weary travelers awaiting the sentencing of a boarding call. The sweet stench of piss mixes with fumes from recycled grease that oozes out of worn vats. At a newsstand, a man with dirty fingernails and dirty hands passes spare change back and forth from the clutch of suitcase-holding zombies purchasing newspapers or nudie rags for use in bathroom stalls (places where anything goes, Senator).
And yet, it is from here, in the underbelly of a bus depot in Phoenix that we choose rather unceremoniously to embark upon our new beginnings. Missing are the romantic ingredients of a fond farewell: handkerchiefs flitting about maiden voyage decks or hands waving along black and white train platforms. No, the bus depot is another place entirely, reserved for the saddest, cheap goodbyes. And it is here, in the sweaty pit of a Greyhound Station, where we embark upon our journey … to go separate ways like two criminals hoping to better their odds by splitting a trail. And who knows? Maybe that is exactly what we were.
“Today she took a train to the West”
-from “Black Hair”
The bus pulls out, slow at first, but its angry engine revs fast. And just like that, away we go into the big badass future, tossing aside brittle memories in a wake of fumes and desert dust. It’s over, this strange moment in time. Hello, opposite ends of the world.
“You were my mad little lover
In a world where everybody fucks everybody else over
You who are so far from me
Far from me
So far from me
Way across some cold neurotic sea
Far from me”
-from “Far From Me”
At present, there is no reason to acknowledge the moment. Or all that has happened before it. Currents cut canyons. We can only measure the effects after a nature’s visible trail marks the awe-inspiring passage of time, long after we have crossed the many bridges of centuries that transition it into a more serviceable view.
“Oh we will know, won’t we?
The stars will explode in the sky
Oh but they don’t do they?
Stars have their moment
And then they die”
-from “(Are You) The One I’ve Been Waiting For”
Our vanity returns in a storm, clouding the view as we strain to see out the window above a stained bus seat—the same decrepit old seat that has carried so many others to their beginnings and endings. You and I were like everybody else, anonymous passengers living and dying in silly little dreams.
“Well the sun comes up and the sun goes down
Going round and round to nowhere”
-from “Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere”
So what was it exactly that brought us to this crooked desert crossroads? Was it our tangled pasts? No, no, we are certainly, neither one of us, victims here. I can see you laughing now a wicked laugh that finds a chorus.
We were spiders, crawling on.
“People just ain’t no good
I think that’s well understood
You can see it everywhere you look
People just ain’t no good”
-from “People Ain’t No Good”
Denial works for a few lucky ones. Others look back and see nothing short of the vivid, encompassing entirety. Which ones were we? Not that it matters here, on I-8 through Yuma.
“And I wish that I was made of stone
So that I would not have to see
A beauty impossible to define”
-from “Brompton Oratory”
All roads lead back to the depot. Next stop, wonderland. Fade out, with music playing on of course.
“Well all things come to pass
This prayer is for you my love
Sent on the wings of a dove
An idiot prayer of empty words
Love, dear, is strictly for the birds
We each get what we deserve”
-from “Idiot Prayer”