Mute Records have just released the final three titles in their 14-album Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds catalogue upgrade. As with the previous titles, each album comes with a remastered CD, plus a DVD containing the full album with a new 5.1 surround mix, plus various B-sides, video and a newly-recorded 30-documentary. With the future of The Bad Seeds seemingly up in the air, it’s a perfect opportunity to revisit their most recent work and speculate on where they may go next.
Nocturama was originally released in 2003 and has been considered by many to be one of Cave’s lesser efforts, coming relatively quickly on the heels of the wonderful No More Shall We Part. Listening back to the album almost a decade after its release finds that it is a much more satisfying collection of songs than I remember. It can be considered a transitional record, moving away from the more sedate piano-based ballads of the band’s previous work to the more raucous sounds that were to come later.
The first four track are ballads, but they are among Cave’s best, with Conway Savage offering up some beautiful counterpoint vocals on Right Out Of Your Hand, and The Saints’ Chris Bailey on board for Bring It On. Then Dead Man In My Bed comes roaring in like an avalanche. Granted, the next few tracks are somewhat weak, but then the album wraps with the 15-minute tour-de-force that is Babe, I’m On Fire. Fortunately, the promo video is included in the package…it’s a must-see.
Click here to listen to Right Out Of Your Hand from Nocturama:
Just a year later…and after the departure of long-time Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld…Nick and the boys return with what is quite possibly their best work, the 17-track double album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus. The songs here are brimming with creative energy, humour and passion. Ironically, There She Goes, My Beautiful World, one of the highlights of the set, is a song Cave wrote about searching for his muse. It’s here in its full glory and the band is supported by The London Community Gospel Choir. There has been an underlying gospel aspect to Cave’s music for a while, but the choir really brings it out in spades. To hear a group of musicians making music this intensely vital after more than 20 years together is an inspiration.
Click here to listen to There She Goes, My Beautiful World from Abattoir Blues:
The same can be said for Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! This, the final album of Nick & The Bad Seeds (so far), is a more guitar-oriented affair, inspired partly by Grinderman, the side project Nick and some of the Bad Seeds started before this album. By now Warren Ellis’ influence seems to have come to the fore, possibly eclipsing that of Mick Harvey, who has reportedly left the band. Again, it’s another fantastic collection of songs and performances, and if it wasn’t for Abattoir Blues, it might be the band’s best.
Click here to listen to We Call Upon The Author from Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!:
The quality of the surround sound mixes varies from album to album, with those in Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! sounding consistently the best. This is probably because there is a bit more space in the production and it leaves some room for the instruments to spread out in the mix.
Usually, the B-sides and bonus tracks in these types of reissues are fairly uninteresting, but that’s not the case here. Cave seems incapable of writing a bad song and the extras hold up well, revealing plenty of hidden gems.
Finally, the documentaries, directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard are almost worth the price of the discs on their own. At first they can be somewhat frustrating in that they consist of a parade of talking heads commenting on the making of the album or its impact on the person’s life, without identifying who these people are until the end of the film. But the best approach is to stop wondering who they are…you’ll figure it out after watching a few, and just listen to their insight and impassioned impressions of the songs. Most of the Bad Seeds, sans Nick Cave are interviewed as are the likes of Beth Orton, Bobby Gillespie, Alan Vega, producer Nick Launay and former Bad Seeds Kid Congo Powers and Barry Adamson.
My final impression after listening to these reissues and watching the films is that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are probably the most consistently excellent recording artists of the past 30 years. I can’t think of anyone who even comes close to accomplishing what they’ve done over that length of time without repeating themselves and with their best work coming at this point in their career. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.