Reactor

Does Nick Cave’s Protest Song for Athens Capture the Zeitgeist?

by Stephanie Bailey on March 6, 2013

LONDON — Since the outbreak of the Crisis in Greece, many parallels have been drawn between Greece and Germany. Indeed, Paul Mason at the BBC looked back to the Weimar and the rise of fascism as a reflection of the rise of fascism in Greece, while T Magazine called Athens the new Berlin. Thinking about other potential comparisons, how about one between David Bowie’s recently released “Where Are We Now?,” an ode to Germany’s capital city, with a video by Tony Oursler, and a video currently making the rounds over the interwebs of a bonus track on Nick Cave (the musician, not the artist) and the Bad Seeds’s latest release — a song titled “Lightning Bolts,” which appears to be dedicated to Athens, where Cave has a huge following.

The song is an emotive, relentless war cry — a direct response to the complexities of living or even being in Greece right now — a state between indifference and pure pulsating rage and perseverance. Through the recitation of what is essentially a poem narrated over a soundtrack composed in a way that replicates the pulses of discontent and disarray that rumble on, over and under Athens’s city streets, Cave sings a song for a city once known as the cradle of democracy, where, as Cave observes, “even the pigeons are wearing gas masks.”

Is this a 21st C. call to arms or a lullaby to calm those facing up to a dystopic present? Maybe both. The video has been getting a great deal of attention in Greece, with one viewer commenting on how Cave must know and understand the struggles of the people living in the country today better than those in the country expected to nurse its economy back to health. But in many ways, this is a song not only for the lost generations of Athens or Greece, but for everyone who has been pushed aside by their government, devalued by market forces and for everyone who, when asked on the street, says they are “alright,” though in truth, they are “mostly lost.” A song for most of us, then.

Editor’s note: While the official “video” of “Lightning Bolts” is above, there are many unofficial version on YouTube and elsewhere, including 1, 2, and 3.

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