Saturday, July 5, 2014

UNDERRATED NICK CAVE SONGS

These songs are pretty well known to Nick Cave fans, so calling them underrated is not entirely accurate. They are in no particular order and are not comprehensive by any means. The list below barely scratches the surface of the Bad Seeds catalogue and does not include anything from the Birthday Party (most of which is underrated). Enjoy, and please feel free to post your own picks.


DARKER WITH THE DAY

The picture painted here is a vast kaleidoscope view of the world. It is the story of an observer who's mind is jumping from one subject to the next and the result is that the listener is taken in multiple directions as well. It is sort of a fragile song that seems in danger of sinking from the ambitious but fragmented lyrics. Instead it somehow floats along and works perfectly.


SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR

While "The Mercy Seat" was a clear highlight of the Tender Prey album, another standout is the menacing "Sugar, Sugar, Sugar". Cave's vocals are guttural and malicious while Blixa Bargeld's guitar borders on discordant and threatens to derail the whole affair. Instead it just adds to the tightly wound mood and horror movie suspense as the music chugs along with foreboding intensity.

WHAT I KNOW (Grinderman)

Part of the purpose of Grinderman was that they were louder and messier than Bad Seeds of recent years. However, the quieter songs are some of the best moments of the band. "What I Know" has a bare bones repetitive quality that reminds me a little of a Suicide song like "Che". The lyrics are some of Cave's most candid since the The Boatman's call and it is perhaps the first glimpse of what the next Bad Seeds album (Push The Sky Away) would sound like.

JOHN FINNS WIFE

Another of Caves most interesting narratives...... John Finns Wife is dramatic and engrossing. Apparently, the Henry's Dream album was sort of poisoned for the band by a bad experience with a producer. However, the quality of the songs and dynamics of the band remain in tact and come across very well.

'TIL THE END OF THE WORLD

By offering only part of the story in this fragmented narrative, it ignites the imagination and leaves huge gaps for interpretation and possibility. A strange and eerily beautiful song originally included in the Wim Wenders film of the same name (which offers no further clues to the mysterious lyrics).  

MAN IN THE MOON (Grinderman)

A break from traditional song structure with little lyrical repetition. At barely over 2 minutes, this one passes by pretty quickly. It could have been expanded upon, but part of the effectiveness is that it is pared down to its essential elements. Gets better with each listen.

KNOCKIN' ON JOE

The Firstborn is Dead is often considered to be the Bad Seeds "Blues" album......sometimes to the point of criticism. While there is an obvious reference to Blues music in both style and subject matter, the album maintains a strong identity of its own. This is the Bad Seeds record that I most enjoy listening to from start to finish. It is easy to become immersed in the world portrayed in Knockin' on Joe. It slinks along at varied tempos and is completely engrossing.

LIGHTING BOLTS

While Warren Ellis' looping plays a strong role on the recent album, Push the Sky Away, it is never more apparent than the addictive droning clatter of the B-side, Lightning Bolts.  Caves spoken Lyrics are symbolic and imaginative, referencing subject matters that range from mythology to parenting. The closing line "We are mostly lost" gives a sense of being marooned in modern society. This is an unusual offering for the Bad Seeds and hopefully a hint at their future direction.

WEST COUNTRY GIRL

Supposedly about PJ harvey, West Country Girl is carried by a thumping heartbeat bass and minimal drums while the guitar and violin sail around in unison. Perhaps the most rhythmic offering on the Boatman's Call album, and also the shortest. While it is a well known track, there are at least three others on the album that are usually mentioned first. Lyrically, it is a descriptive and visual love song that is both human and otherworldly.

NEW MORNING

There is something about the lyrics on The Tender Prey's closing track that are universal and timeless, but the delivery is almost sarcastic and dismissive. It is a bit of a misfit on the album and among Nick Caves work as a whole. At first it seems to be at odds with itself, but in time it starts to make sense. Revisit this song with the lyrics on hand because they are incredible. I hope that The Bad Seeds tour New Morning again at some point, it would be interesting to hear it re-envisioned with the bands current sound.

O'MALLY'S BAR

In the course of 14 and a half minutes we pay witness to a small town killing spree that could be easily turned into a full length movie. Often this song is mentioned for its dark humor and high body count, but it is perhaps overlooked in being one of Cave's most complex character studies and complete narratives.  While there is humor at work here, the protagonist's sense of justification and egotistic self reflection is somehow believable and scary. Because of the structure, subject matter and long run time O'Mally's Bar may not be a song that you listen to on a daily basis, but it is still one of Cave's best.