And The Asshat Saw The Angel

By Nathan Payne | pablosmoglives | 7 Dec 2023

"I am God.  I am God thinking about God
thinking about Steve McQueen."
Nick Cave


I was living in my van in Jerome, Arizona when One More Time With Feeling was re-released in December 2016.  It had come out in September, but I'd been in New Orleans trying to book a tour from a children's library, sitting on the tiny children's seats and soliciting shows out west after failing to meet the girl I'd driven there to meet in the first place.  I made it back to Arizona, and there was a screening somewhere in Phoenix.  The gothic Boomer chick I originally bought the 2nd ticket for couldn't make it, so I brought a hippie Millennial chick instead.  She'd never heard of Nick Cave before.  We got stoned on the highway into town, got lost in a hipster district, found parking, and made it to the venue.  It was a cool place.  I settled into a huge, comfortable chair, and absorbed the blinding light of the hubris of the important, extraordinary people onscreen.

It was beautiful.  It really is a beautiful film.  The self-satisfied, narcissistic fawning on display by the petty deities who have deigned to grace us with their power and flawed, tragic beauty don't take away from it at all.

The hippie chick was really into Nick Cave's right-hand man, the hirsute fiddle player from The Dirty Three, a mysterious trio of Australian madmen who played crazed instrumentals in the 90s, and whose pictures never appeared on any of their albums.  The Dirty Three were a band borne of the colorful dirt scattered like infernal confetti behind the dumpster in which you disposed of all your dead-end relationships, and when Nick Cave adopted their violinist as his right-hand man, it was a sea change for The Bad Seeds.  Having been an old-school fan of the Blixa/Mick Harvey period, which was the lineup when I saw them live in the 90s, I have to admit that Warren Ellis has been a great addition to The Bad Seeds.  They'll never beat Let Love In, as far as I'm concerned, but the late-period (so far) output of the band has been greatly enhanced by the presence of the crazed muse of tuneful noise embodied in Warren Ellis.

While heading back up to Jerome after the film, the hippie chick said that Nick Cave was like the devil, and that she preferred "organic jams" to the cold, electronic textures of the songs in One More Time With Feeling.  I told her that it depended on what you wanted to express, and if you were going for a lonely, alienated vibe, sometimes the cold noise stored in your freezer is better than the glowing hum of the analog sun, warming your soul on the beaches of gregarious enchantment.

She brightened at the suggestion, which had obviously never occurred to her before.  She was a transient like me, and I dropped her off at the rich lady's house she was crashing at, somewhere near Sedona, before heading back to my empty, unmarked place in the middle of nowhere, to spend the night alone with my stuffed, psychedelic unicorn light and the weed she'd given me as a gesture of gratitude for having taken her on a cold, artful adventure into the film caverns of Phoenix.

It was a fun night.

According to, the definition of Iconoclast is "a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition," and/or "a breaker or destroyer of images, especially those set up for religious veneration."

I'd like to submit anyone who refers to his or her audience as "ordinary people," which Nick Cave does in the "emotional tribute" video above, as over-ripe candidates for iconoclastic demolition.  I'd like to nominate anyone who writes a bad poem like "Steve McQueen" (though the ending is indeed beautiful), which contains an actual declaration of the deity of the author, for the position of entry-level deck-swabber in the Ego Waste Management department of the College of Smug, Ridiculous Arts.  The College of Smug, Ridiculous Arts is an institution which produces overwrought, entitled Minichrists of extraordinary beauty and importance who may or may not make any actual art.  As a member of our exclusive little ego-college, don't worry about the mundane atrocities of daily life that distract you from your purpose and calling as a cherished cultural institution.  Everything from cooking and cleaning to wiping your ass and pointing the camera at you when you're doing something beautiful will be taken care of by "ordinary people," who will not only be grateful for the opportunity to service your important, beautiful needs, but who will also pay for the privilege of doing so.  Yep, that's right.  You can charge "ordinary people" admission for the privilege of basking in the radiant glory of your own extraordinary lack of self-awareness.

How incredibly disgraceful.  You know how many Gods there are in Heaven, Nick Cave?  That's right.

Just one.


If there's anybody who should be able to appreciate an act of iconoclastic ego-demolition, it's an old-school punk like Nick Cave.  It has been obvious to me for awhile that the "humanism" and "humility" on display in many of his articles on The Red Hand Files is actually self-centered.  It isn't stupid or unkind, and it's subtle, but his professed "love" for people is obviously a form of faux-Christian virtue signaling, probably only intended for himself.  That's why there's still hope for him.  His virtue-signaling comes from a place of genuine, if moribund, humility.  He's not trying to love people so that you can say he's a good person; he's trying to love people so that he can say it.  About himself, to himself.  It's not the same thing.

Regardless, when he tells stories about how Shane MacGowan had real love and kindness for other people, he refers to those other people as "ordinary."  He does it naturally, as though it's what he really thinks.


“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among
you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think;
but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt
to every man the measure of faith.”
Romans 12:3


I had a friend in Brighton, England who said Nick Cave pushed right through her at one of his shows, like she was a stalk of wheat in the sprawling field of ordinary people who'd paid their hard-earned money to see the show.  He was doing some kind of "audience outreach" part, walking into the crowd like some kind of overdressed Moses on a power trip, parting the Red Sea with his beatific presence, and that she felt like a particularly irrelevant member of the fawning, faceless mass of subjects, falling at his feet.

"F*** Nick Cave," she told me, after that event.

He did ignore me on The Poor Man's Nick Cave Tour, which made me loathe him for awhile.  I know his sideman was aware of what I was doing.  But it was radio silence, all around.  Maybe I'm not Freemason or ordinary enough for them, or something.


Or, perhaps my faith is too "ordinary," too base to charge people admission to listen to me talk about during a one-eyed "evening of talk and music," a first-class tour of the faux-godlike ideas in my head, during which I drag the last vestiges of my conscience behind me like a basset hound with terminal cancer, a conscience I reward with treats of bite-sized empathy and misanthropic humanism, while I preen my deity in the bathroom mirror of a 9-star hotel in the antechambers of hell itself, while the ordinary people change my sheets and prepare my dinner, so that I might enlighten them with yet another great idea that won't change anything.

Things being, y'know, irredeemable by any earthly means.  But, thanks to my iconoclastic punk-rock roots, there still is hope.


"I’m not sure I am wise and sensitive, and I’m probably not the best
person to give advice on matters of love — as a friend once
said of me, ‘Getting advice from you is the equivalent
of being measured by the undertaker.’"
Nick Cave


In the late 80s, Nick Cave published And The Ass Saw The Angel, an interesting book I've read twice, though it's been awhile.  It's a novel about a character in an early Bad Seeds or Birthday Party song, and my memories of it are favorable and positive.  But the spirit of egomaniacal revelry, however ripped the T-shirt the deaf & dumb character wears may be, is the opposite of the genuinely human spirit of Shane MacGowan described in the "emotional tribute" video above.  The guy talking to Nick Cave tells a story of going to meet Shane MacGowan and running into 2 homeless-looking guys who were trying to catch some loose money that was fluttering around in the gutter.  Apparently, Shane had given the guy some cash, and the wind took hold of it and blew it away.  And they were trying to retrieve the bills, and the guy couldn't tell the difference between Shane MacGowan and the homeless person.

That is why Shane MacGowan is my favorite frontman of all time.  He never thought he was better than anybody.  I have real affection for him, even though I never met him, knew him, or even saw him live.  I'm an old Nick Cave fan, but I don't have any affection for him.  I'm not going to rejoice if I outlive him, but I doubt I'll mourn Nick Cave the way I find myself actually mourning Shane MacGowan.

Maybe that will change, if the asshat ever actually sees the angel, instead of talking down to it from the place where the air is so thin, ordinary people can't breathe.

With God all things are possible.

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Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne

I am a songwriter and bandleader who travels the world in search of the golden ticket.


Replacing my blog at

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