For 30-plus years Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds have existed in their own dark dimension. A living, evolving embodiment of the southern gothic legend, a cult western horror flick made hypnotic, heel-stomping flesh, they inhabited and documented a dusty lost world where the rain fell black on murderers and preachermen alike; of merciless Gods, mischievous devils and electric chair confessions; of liars, lovers, philanderers, angels, thieves and at least one red-handed Beelzebub foiling the fates of men. If you’re playing the Nick Cave Review Drinking Game and you’re already hammered, it’s merely testament to the power, vividness and cohesion of the world Cave and his coven of suave sadists have conjured.
These 45 songs on 3CDs comprise the best overview yet of NC&TBS’s unique and evocative voodoo. The frantic, cacophonous carnival killers that Cave pieced together after dragging himself from the wreckage of The Birthday Party in 1983 is here in all its febrile glory on From Her To Eternity and Tupelo, the sort of songs that come naturally while climbing the walls waiting for your Berlin heroin dealer.
CD1’s savage, raw-boned bayou blues culminates in Scum – a profane Cave literally hawking sputum at his critics - and the electrocuted clatter of The Mercy Seat. By the late-80s Cave’s maniacal edge was tempered and honed on the likes of Deanna and The Weeping Song, and his future as one of rock music’s most sublime piano balladeers was peering from the murk. The Ship Song begat Straight To You begat Nobody’s Baby Now begat the incomparably exquisite Into My Arms – all among the greatest love songs of any era. The Dark One had heart.
Besides over-egged southern gothic pastiches like Stagger Lee and Up Jumped The Devil, the Bad Seeds’ mid-period is awash with treasures. Red Right Hand is Old Nick’s most terrifying appearance of many, Kylie is a glamorous-yet-haunting presence on Where The Wild Roses Grow and Loverman finds the Seeds introducing a modernist art to Cave’s demented furies that, after Cave’s relatively anodyne turn-of-the-century output, would evolve well into CD3’s era of schizophrenic adventure. Here the Bad Seeds become an inventively unhinged force and the perfect balance is struck – nuclear gospel tunes Hiding All Away and There She Goes, and boho blues like Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! rub up against leisurely swellers from 2013’s Push The Sky Away. By then NC&TBS were dabbling in loops and electronics, suggesting that even after producing as mighty a canon as this, The Bad Seeds are still just germinating. Dig, newcomers, dig