Title: Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow
Format: 10" Single
Catalogue Number: 10MUTE262
Year of Release: 2001
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A Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow (Album Version)
B1 God Is In The House (Westside Session)
B2 And No More Shall We Part (Westside Session)
2nd single from the excellent No More Shall We Part, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 11th Studio album, and I think a more obvious choice for a single than the one they led with, the theological debate that is As I Sat Sadly By Her Side.
The album was a return to a raucous full band sound after they slowed down and pared back for The Boatman's Call. Only a slight return though, as slower piano-driven numbers still dominate. Fifteen Feet is one of the faster ones, and in a departure for Nick Cave's usual subject matter (generally speaking: love, death, and ne'er-do-wells) is a thinly-veiled attack on cocaine use. Having just come out of rehabilitation for alcohol and drug addictions, it shouldn't be surprising that drugs and their ill effects are on his mind. You can listen to the song as a warning against going out in a blizzard, if you like, but the incongruities that mount up towards the end (Why is he paranoid about waving to his neighbour? And how can he do that? Why is he looking for stuff to steal?) mean it is a hard thing to justify. But then, so is addiction, and addicts manage to justify that to themselves easily enough. Which might mean this song is even cleverer than I first thought. Oh, and it was released in May.
The video is up on YouTube, but it's unofficial, so I don't know how long it'll be there. Australia's great and good can be seen getting down (or up, as the case may be), and you can see what violinist Warren Ellis (a permanent band member since 1995) looked like before he grew quite so much hair on his face.
The B-sides are taken from sessions recorded at Westside Studios, hence the name. Whether these were early sessions for the album that were subsequently abandoned, or deliberate demo sessions, I haven't been able to find out. Given that Warren comes in comically late on God is in the House, I'm inclined towards the latter. Nick's vocals seem a little strained too.
That said, God is in the House is a great song, satirising an admittedly easy target, but done in good humour, with self-deprecating references such as, "The tipsy, the reeling and the drop-down pissed". Many 12-step recovery programs include submitting your will to a higher power, and I wonder if the genesis of this song was in rehab.
There is an interesting progression of lyrics through the song from being certain that your god is in the house, "No cause for worry now" and "No one's left in doubt" to the more doubtful, "Any day now he'll come out" and finally the plaintive, "I wish he would come out". Which as someone who was brought up Catholic, and is now an atheist humanist, I think nicely captures faith and its need for certainty when no such certainty exists.
The album's title track, and final track on the EP, is a meditation on relationships and freedom within those relationships. I guess it's also a song about giving yourself over to something, in this case to a marriage. How much do you lose, and how much gladly?
It's performed largely by Nick solo at the piano, just joined by the Bad Seeds at the end. On the record proper the McGarrigle sisters add lovely harmonies, and I felt their absence here.