Monthly Archives: July 2009

151. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Abattoir Blues & The Lyre of Orpheus”

There was a definite downward slide in quality over the last couple of Cave releases.  This album was pretty much make or break for me.

Album Cover Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Abattoir Blues & The Lyre of OrpheusAudaciously (or perhaps cautiously) Cave and his gang of conspirators choose to roll the dice twice by releasing a double album.

Double albums typically send up warning flags as they are the domain of the self-indulgent.  Thankfully this combo doesn’t venture too far in that direction, although there are a few tracks that would benefit from exile off to the land of b-sides.

Most importantly these CDs mark the return of the cocky, energetic, edgy Cave that produced the mid-1990s gems.  The songs have heavier rhythms and greater diversity of sounds. The piano is much less prominent. The use of female backing vocals and whopping riffs on Hiding All Away, for example, herald new confidence for the band, and fiddle fiend Warren Ellis finally makes his mark across multiple tracks.

Put simply there is just more good stuff versus dross.  There’s also supposedly some sort of Greek myth thread running through the second disk, but beyond the opener I’m missing it.

Irrespective, I’m just happy Cave refound his mojo…

File under: The knackery trip is cancelled

150. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Nocturama”

I know I committed to around 200 words per review, but I feel like writing “see last review” on this one (or just “ditto”).

Album Cover Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds NocturamaAfter giving this album several listens, I can find little positive or constructive to say.

It’s just a bleh effort. The songwriting is uninspired. The musicianship is workmanlike (as an aside I’m no sure that phrase should be pejorative, but it is). There are no top notch songs.

At times the album even lacks Cave-ness. For example, the considerable portions of the pedestrian Bring it On could be any number of cookie-cutter adult-rockers (especially the chorus). At times, I had to convince myself it wasn’t Tex Perkins…

The aforementioned “several listens” reflected my relative unfamiliarity with this recording. I clearly wasn’t grabbed by this post-purchase. I’m still not.

The only fun aspect of this is the very self-indulgent almost fifteen minute closer Babe I’m on Fire, on which Nick plays out the stack-the-rhymes game to its ultimate end. My special edition of the album includes a DVD with the video for said song, which is ain’t too bad (and demonstrative of Cave’s underestimated sense of humour). Here it is (in two parts):

File under: Snooze-a-rama

149. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “No More Shall We Part”

The four year gap between Cave’s previous album and this release was reportedly (at least partly) a result of Cave finally extracting himself from alcohol and heroin dependency. As I have said somewhere else on here, the result is not a strong endorsement of sobriety.

Album Cover Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds No More Shall We PartThe pull of Cave and his buddies (for me) has always been the sense of danger and urgency in the music, the snide nature of the lyrics and the conspiratorial delivery thereof. This album is sadly lacking on these fronts.

It is a pretty straightforward outing. Very calm/beautiful backing with Cave shifting back and forth between borderline spoken-word and lounge-singer style delivery. It is all far to restrained and domestic. Too often it is Cave-by-numbers songwriting too. The frequency of the “pile the increasingly ridiculous rhymes high” approach is much higher than normal.

The album is far from a shocker however. The mid-album sequence of Love Letter, Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow, and the standout track God is the House are well worth it. The latter sees Cave at his humorous best, and spitting the couplets for good rather than evil.

File under: Parting is increasingly possible

148. Various Artists – “Chess Classics”

I’ve dived into the compilations so as to avoid a Cave overload.

Here’s another of these fortuitous acquisitions via a magazine purchase. This collection accompanied Mojo back in mid-2005.

Album Cover Chess Classics Mojo Howling WolfIt showcases the output of Chicago label Chess. And what a damn fine label it was, spanning blues, soul and jazz.

It is the blues that stands out here. The selections from Muddy Waters (Tom Cat), Chuck Berry (the jazzy instrumental Night Beat) and Sonny Boy Williamson (the supergroovy Fattening Frogs For Snakes) are all in that fun, party-inducing, not-feeling-too-sorry-for-myself end of the blues spectrum. Waters’ effort is particularly sexy with tumultuous horns pushing it along.

The standout track is Howlin’ Wolf‘s Spoonful showcasing one of the truly captivating blues voices and deceptively simple riffing. Alas he preceded the world of music vids, but here’s the song with a gallery of pics:

Chess wasn’t just about blues, so we also hear a collection of jazzier numbers and doo-woppy stuff. There is a certain gravity to even the poppiest tracks here. Nothing seems too disposable. A premium is placed on strong vocals and a driving groove.

This album does exactly what a sampler should. It generates a strong appetite for more. I see some shopping in my future…

File under: Grandmasters at Play

147. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “The Boatman’s Call”

Back when Master Cave was burgling houses, trashing Melbourne punk venues and injecting any shit he could get hold of into his veins, I don’t think too many folk would have thought he’d be penning tunes appropriate for weddings and chickflicks.

Album Cover Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds The Boatman's CallYet, that is exactly what pops up on this oh-so-chilled Cave and Co effort. Having vented his murderous tendencies on the last release, this time he explores his softer side.

This is a much-played CD in my collection. In the spirit of over-sharing in the blogosphere, I must confess this is a post-coital fave. This is the album where Cave sings most smoothly, and where the topic seems to be love.

The journey of the album is intriguing. He starts out enamoured (Into My Arms), but quickly People Ain’t No Good and love has been frustrated and faded (Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere). He professes a serious crush on future reviewee Polly Harvey across three songs. That’s lovestruck teenager levels of output.

The beauty here rests in the pared-backness of the orchestration. Cave’s voice is rarely accompanied by more than strings (often ensconced in a piano). The production levels are fantastic… making it best heard horizontal.

File under: Answer that call

146. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Murder Ballads”

I’ve spent the past week and a bit working through Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 novel Blood Meridian, a nihilistic chronicle of a life of senseless, unthinking killing. It was a gruelling and thoroughly depressing read.

Album Cover Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Murder BalladsIn contrast, this album with a deathtoll of 64 is a relative summer stroll through the countryside.

This is Nick Cave’s best-selling album, yet is much more like a work of literature or film-making than it is plain-old songwriting. This is Tarantino in song, with frame-by-frame blood splatter, and poetry-quoting slayers.

One of the big pulls for consumers was his collaboration with fellow Aussie Kylie Minogue. A concert-going highlight for me was seeing said poppett join the Bad Seeds on stage at a Big Day Out, and some lass in my vicinity screaming “get off the stage you fat mole!!”…perhaps you had to be there…

The work here is highly entertaining and inventive, although musically fairly sparse. The various tales warrant close attention, as the imagery and imagination are inspired. Cave’s take on Stagger Lee is brutal, and The Curse of Millhaven has a ‘heroine’ for the ages. And for sheer perverse self-indulgence the 14 minute long, slow-mo slaughter O’Malley’s Bar is very hard to beat.

File under: Gangsta rap for the well-read

145. Cato Salsa Experience – “A Good Tip for a Good Time”

My alphabetisation skills aren’t what they once where. These Norwegian rockers should have precded Nick Cave…

There was a wave of throwback Garage rock in the early ’00s that I got slightly captured by. Thus I own albums by NZers (D4, Datsuns) and even Viking-types with lanky hair, skinny waists and loads of effect pedals.

Album Cover Cato Salsa Experience CD A Good Tip For A Good TimeThis album’s a whole lot of fun. These guys have a blast grinding out riff after riff while mashing Hammond organs and waving their hands in front of a Theremin. This is all in the vein of Aussie lads of Rocket Science or the massively underrated Make-Up.

As with all good garage rock, there ain’t much of depth going on in the lyrics arena. The joy is in the groove and the playfulness. This is music I’d happily walk up the road to see on a very regular basis.

The album opens fantastically, with two strong single-type songs (Listen to Me Daddy O and the vid-clipped tune below), but does fade away a little before they hit stride again with Deadbeat.

Oh, and in watching their clips (and looking at the album cover) I’ve realised they never had lanky hair… but rather mop tops.

File under: Mopping up the Garage very neatly