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.
Let Love In (1994)
Until I began this project, if anyone had asked me for my favorite Bad Seeds album, I’d give my stock answer; ‘Let Love In’. Whilst I’m not sure that would still be my reply, it really is a terrific piece of work. Do You Love Me is a perfect album opener, and it was whilst listening to this song it occurred to me that it’s got all the hallmarks of some kind of trip-hop or dub track. Then I noticed a few of the other tracks on the album have those slow, repeating basslines which remain unchanged against the melodies, the percussive roll of the drums and the kind of string/organ stabs that would usually sound more at home on a Massive Attack or Mad Professor record. I thought someone else must have made that connection so I Googled it, and no, I’m claiming it as my own. Let Love In is a trip-hop album in disguise! Classic Nick, the musical chameleon.
Elsewhere on the album we range from slow, comically dark ballads to the outright noise-punk of Jangling Jack and Thirsty Dog. Loverman remains one of the best Bad Seeds tunes to date and Red Right Hand needs no introduction to anyone. The album really does stand up, 25 years later, as one of the all time greats – it’s a classic.
Standout tracks: Do You Love Me (parts 1 & 2), Loverman & Red Right Hand.
Murder Ballads (1996)
Back to where it all began. As I wrote in the introductory post, this was the first Bad Seeds record I ever bought. I won’t lie, it took me a few listens to get it. I’d never heard anything like it before, and I’ve heard little else since. Loosely a collection of old folk tales with a common theme, you guessed it; murder. The first track on the album, Song Of Joy, is almost a perfect distillation of everything great about The Bad Seeds sound. The slightly off-kilter melody, the menacing half sung, half spoken lyrics and the suitibility epic crescendo to finish. It’s an absolute treat to listen to.
It’s not a perfect album, and there are songs on here I’ve warmed to far less than others, but the jazz leanings of Crow Jayne, the sad tale of Mary Bellows in The Kindness Of Strangers and whatever deranged, dark corner of his mind Cave pulled O’Malleys Bar from never get old. I’m not a huge fan of the duets with PJ Harvey and Kylie, but there are no bad songs on here really – just some I enjoy a lot more than the rest. And let’s not forget about Stagger Motherfucking Lee. Probably the most viscaral representation of pure carnage ever committed to song.
Standout tracks: Song Of Joy, Stagger Lee & The Kindness Of Strangers.
The Boatman’s Call (1997)
Coming only a year after Nick Cave’s tribute to murderous folktale anti-heroes, The Boatman’s Call couldn’t have been more different. Easily the most accessible of the Bad Seeds work, it’s the closest the band has ever come to mainstream, I feel. A much slower, more sedate affair than any of their previous work, the album feels almost desolate and barren in comparison. But that’s not a bad thing. The music, on the whole, steps back and allows Cave’s lyrics to really shine though. Has there ever been a better opening line than, “I don’t belive in an interventionist god, but darlin’, I know you do“?
This might be the Bad Seeds masterpiece. It’s not my favorite, but it’s hard to argue against this being their best work. The album flows from one beautiful track to another, with very little disrupting that journey.
Standout tracks: Brompton Oratory & There Is A Kingdom.