Monday, June 27, 2011


This is my favourite period for Nick Cave, largely because it's his calmest period musically, putting the focus on his deep, bleak voice, and his deep, bleak lyrics.  These four reissues come from 1994 - 2001, the middle period of the Bad Seeds years, book-ended by louder, more violent music on both ends.  Ah, not this these disc aren't filled with violence, but it's in the words, more on that later.  It's also the next wave of splendid reissues of the Bad Seeds years.  All four feature two discs; the original album on the CD, and a huge DVD as the second.  It includes the album in 5.1 or stereo, and then a ton of extra material, including video, outtakes, b-sides, live sessions, each one two hours long.  The DVD for No More Shall We Part runs a whopping 2 hours and 36 minutes.

Cave to me is part Cash and part Cohen and part Jagger.  Not the TV-show hosting, Billy Graham buddy Cash, but the bad version, the pill-popping, hell raising, murder ballad-singing guy he fought to keep down.  The threatening guy who knew the dark side of life and religion.  Not the lovable senior citizen-monk Cohen, but the drug-taking, womanizing, low-crooning Cohen of the 70's, embracing his hedonistic side when fame and money came his way.  And not the sprightly dancing Jagger, but the one who wrote Sympathy For The Devil, and knew how powerful it was to be close to the fire.  Cave takes all the dark elements of art, and revels in them, creating sometimes gruesome, sometimes sad, but always powerful music.

Murder Ballads is just as advertised, a group of the classic folk form, except Cave turns of the songs into slasher movies or worse.  His Stagger Lee is the worst you've ever heard, obscene and x-rated.  While some are simpler examples of the form, no worse than the 18th century template versions, others feature killing sprees, such as O'Malley's Bar.  This is not the place to start with Cave.  In fact, if bleak bothers you, it's hard to recommend one of these, but if you believe songs should mirror life, including the sadder and darker parts, this is powerful literature at times, surrounded by the highly dexterous Bad Seeds, here kept simmering but adept.

Cave can go over the top sometimes, and it does get a little much in large amounts.  On Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow from No More Shall We Part, it's pretty obvious the guy is from Australia, as he can't capture the snow setting and its isolation, describing someone as having icicles hanging from their knees.  Wives and lovers are always sad, I guess because they're stuck with these deeply flawed men.  It's not all bad in life, but you wouldn't know that from spending a long day in Cave's world.  However, like reading a bleak novelist, say David Adams Richards or Robertson Davies, you learn a lot more about humanity, and once you get past the bad parts, you start to find the inherent good in everyone despite the obvious flaws.

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