The Return of the Laughing Clowns

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds invited the Laughing Clowns to reform to appear at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival they curated staged in Sydney on Cockatoo Island in January, 2009. It had been about twenty five years since their last performance. They were sublime. “I loved that band,” Nick told me.

All Tomorrow’s Parties looped back to the beginning of the punk rock era in Australia. Seeing the Boys Next Door and the Go Betweens and the Laughing Clowns on the same bill was remarkable in the early 1980s. But what these musicians are creating now is exponentially more remarkable.

I remember the excitement of seeing Grinderman perform in Sydney in 2007. Much had been made in the press of Nick turning fifty. This side-band of his was a brave blast of rude energy acting as a Trojan Horse cloaking smart, provocative lyrics. The Grinderman song “Go Tell The Women” is a folk song for our era; our problems, our delusions, our mistakes are described but at the end we’re encouraged to “come on back to the fray”. When Michael Almereyda explained his motivation for filming an adaptation of Hamlet in 2000 he quoted Emily Dickinson’s response to Shakespeare’s writing: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head is being taken off I know this is poetry.” This electrifying sense is what I always feel at performances by any of Nick’s bands and the Laughing Clowns, then and now.

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