I’m a Nick Cave fan who is listening to the entire back catalogue in release order during my drives to and from work so that I can better evaluate how I feel about the latest album, Ghosteen.
Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus (2004)
If I’m being completely honest, I can’t think of many double albums which warrant being spread out across two discs. In almost all cases, a better, more focused record could have (and usually should have) been created, with the remaining songs relegated to B-Side status. This, as you may well have guessed, is not true here. Almost serving as two entirely different albums, Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus is a deep, masterful piece of work which contains some of the absolute best of the bands work to date.
Part One – Abattoir Blues
Abattoir Blues comes crashing out of the gates with a riotous celebration of rock & roll, DA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA, GET READY FOR LOVE…! It’s a wake-up call that’s not often present on a Bad Seeds record, and it’s most welcome. The next track, Cannibal’s Hymn is one of my favorites, but the real stand out here is the double whammy of There She Goes My Beautiful Love and Nature Boy, both of which rattle along at a terrific pace (well, for the Bad Seeds at least) and cement themselves firmly in the upper echelons of anything the band has ever recorded. The albums title track is equally brilliant, and in fact the entire first disc is so good that it’s difficult to find anything more to say about it other than how awesome it is! The first part of the album closes with Fable Of The Brown Ape, which actually stands out as a bit of an oddity when set against the rest of the songs. It almost harks back to earlier work with the storytelling, off key vocals and discordant strings, but it’s equally brilliant nonetheless.
Standout tracks: Cannibal’s Hymn, There She Goes My Beautiful World & Nature Boy.
Part Two – The Lyre Of Orpheus
The second part of this album is a little quieter, a little more laid back and a little more stripped down. It sounds, if anything, a lot more traditional Bad Seeds than the full on first part. I can’t honestly say I enjoy it as much as Abattoir Blues, but it’s still a very worthwhile listen. The gorgeous Breathless and Easy Money lead the listener in to the first song where Nick really lets loose – the almost pirate-shanty like Supernaturally. What a great song! That’s really the only point of high energy on the disc though, as the closing three tracks ease you out as gently as you went in.
Standout tracks: Easy Money & Supernaturally.
All in all, Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus is an absolutely fantastic album, which successfully avoids the pitfalls becoming of most double albums – mainly by them being two completely different pieces of work. If the band had put these out as seperate records a year or two apart, nobody would have minded. As it is, we’ve got possibly one of the greatest double albums of all time.
I wasn’t sure whether to include the two Grinderman records in this retrospective, but why not? Grinderman, a side project made up mainly from Bad Seeds members was formed in 2006, supposedly as “a way to escape the weight of The Bad Seeds” (Cave, 2010). Quite what this means, I don’t know, because Grinderman sounds a hell of a lot like The Bad Seeds to me! Well, sort of. The songs tend to sound a little more disjointed, deliberately avant-garde and vitriolic to me. More garage rock, even.
Before listening to this album, the only song I’d really heard was Go Tell The Women, and as it turns out, it’s pretty indicative of the rest of the album. I really like it. A lot of the songs start off fairly innocuously before descending in to something resembling crazed mania. No Pussy Blues is a perfect example of this. The title track is brilliant and I could have quite happily had it go on for another three or four minutes.
Looking at release dates, it seems this album was recorded around the same time Dig, Lazarus Dig! and it’s easy to see a little crossover here and there. So, overall this is pretty much excellent stuff, and an easy recommendation to any Bad Seeds fan. All I’m wondering now is whether I need to go back and do some Birthday Party records too..?
Standout tracks: No Pussy Blues, Grinderman and (I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free.