Before we launch into the letter K, I need to catch you up on some recent purchases from the land of A-J.
Despite my pretty extensive Nick Cave collection, I was slow to jump on the Grinderman side-project. It was only when the band’s second album came out last month that I picked this up going cheap at JB HiFi. And was just the sort of raw rock I’d been looking for.
Over the years, I’ve found great joy in the moments when Nick and his highly talented buddies have reminded us that they can let it all hang out, that there doesn’t need to be too much structure, control or pretence to their sonic adventures. The sheer number of band members, and instruments (especially that piano) have made that a very tough balancing act in Bad Seed land.
The Grinderman set-up with its stripped line-up, and Nick on guitar, allows a lot more free-form, balls out, garage rock. It’s all rather rough and ready, but with that trademark Cave (and maybe Warren Ellis’ influence) tongue in cheek.
The song-writing (and tone) here has me thinking that Tex Perkins just realised that Nick could be him without trying very hard at all. Indeed, Tex has never delivered a song this good (and this ain’t the best track on the album):
File under: No pretence blues
Posted in G, Oz Artists
Tagged album, album review, CD review, Grinderman, music, music review, Nick Cave, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, No Pussy Blues, Tex Perkins, Warren Ellis
In a case for any buddy Sherlocks out there, this particular album was unexpectedly absent from my CD collection back when I was deeply immersed in Cave reviews.
On the urging of a regular reader (Unrelenting Tedium, are you still out there?), I sought a replacement copy and have been relishing each listen ever since.
I am seriously torn in my ranking of Cave opuses. Three of his albums currently occupy my Top 20, with Let Love In out in front.
My strongest basis for favouring said album was its astoundingly strong opening trio of tracks. But, then, this CD has an even more impressive triptych.
The epic Papa Won’t Leave You Henry is captivating with swirling, rousing choruses. The organ and virtual call-and-response of I Had a Dream Joemaintains the momentum, while the lusciousness of the softer Straight to You presages his later work on Boatman’s Call.
What lifts this album above its esteemed peers is that the quality never drops. There isn’t a track on this release which would be out of place on a Bad Seeds best of. The album isn’t quite as wild or aggressive as his live work of the time or Tender Prey, but it is wonderfully balanced and engaging.
File under: A dream weaver
After my fortnight of Cave listening a month or two back, I promised to pick up a couple of the albums I was missing from his back catalogue.
I didn’t exactly stretch myself, stepping back one spot to acquire this the fifth album in the Bad Seeds catalogue.
This was very much the breakout release for the band, opening with the quintessential Cave composition (and performance) the astoundingly good Mercy Seat. The song is so good that my version of the CD has two versions of it!
The album doesn’t rest on those laurels, but rather follows up with the rousing Deanna and a few other tunes I’d been unfamiliar with until, most notably Up Jumped the Devil. This rollicking number is like some bastard lovechild of The Pogues and Tom Waits, and is Cave and buddies at their fun-loving best.
The album stays consistent throughout. Nick is in his typically verbose and literary mood, with the band exploring their more raucous and dangerous side.
As such, this is a wonderful addition to my rather shelf-greedy Cave collection. Perhaps I might even delve even further in to his past.
File under: Love me tender
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.
Audaciously (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
I know I committed to around 200 words per review, but I feel like writing “see last review” on this one (or just “ditto”).
After 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
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.
The 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
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.
Yet, 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
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.
In 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
I have encountered Nick Cave and Co a range of live contexts: from standing up, sweaty, indoor grunginess at a town hall in Collingwood, to a sophisticated sitting down grand theatre, and stadium festival action with a thunder and lightning background.
Each time it has been a thoroughly fulfilling experience, with Cave in total command of the crowd and his mob of musicians. He’s a captivating performer with the slint hint of danger, but with little risk of disappointment.
Much of the Cave songbook works extremely well live. The contrasts between light and dark are accentuated in such an environment. The energy and effort in producing the bashing rhythms and twisted melodies are a joy to witness.
This CD does a solid job of capturing that experience. The setlist is a ripper. It opens with the best opener of all – the slow build of Mercy Seat(although it is a rather restrained and shorter version than I can remember witnessing). The tempos of Deanna and Ship Song seem slightly quickened versus their studio versions.
The breathy, spitting, prowling Cave seems ready to jump from the speakers and into the loungeroom. That’s the best one can hope for on a live release.
File under: It’s great to be alive
Nick Cave aficionados will no doubt shaking their head in disgust that I have started my reviews mid-career. I own none of Cave’s earlier difficult works, despite having seen him play many of tracks of these albums (and relishing them)
Unlike his previous release, this album conjures up memories of such works, as it is much more chaotic and raucous. Cave takes on the psychotic ringmaster roll and as pounds out venom-filled lyrics over swellings waves of rhythms perfectly executed by the Seeds gang.
Tracks such as Loverman, Jangling Jack and Red Right Hand race along. The brilliance of Cave rests on his unwillingness to compromise lyrically. The imagery comes thick and fast, as does the humour. The slightly obscured “L is for… O is for…” lines on Loverman are pure brilliance.
This is a fantastically well-balanced album. For each such spine-jangler there is a slower, moody counterpart. Here Cave returns to the crooning, but with less of the showtuneyness of the last album. His Leonard Cohen-esque leanings show out on several tracks, most notably on Ain’t Gonna Rain Anymore.
I also am not sure I’ve heard an album with a better trio of opening tracks yet on my reviews.
File under: Worthy of our love