The Ten Best Nick Cave Songs
People of Dallas! One of the greatest singer-songwriters of his generation is coming to our fair city in March, and the tickets haven't sold out yet. I know they're $80, but come on. He's very unlikely to come back again, and for some reason that no one can explain he's not only started his entire US tour in Dallas but ignored the entire West coast. We're very lucky. So why not repay his faith in you, the good folks of North Texas, and purchase a ticket today? You just know he's going to play some classics. It won't be anything less than spectacular.
By way of promotion, here is a list of some of his finest moments, according to me. There will be plenty to argue with here, with fans and haters alike, and if you've not heard all of these songs, I urge you to spend one cold, rainy night inside with a bottle of red wine and stick them on.
Early Bad Seeds - Nick and Blixa
Out of the ashes of the Birthday Party (one of the few punk bands that would clearly murder you and feel absolutely no remorse) came Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It featured an oft-rotating line-up with Nick and his muse, German arthouse guitarist Blixa Bargeld (also of Einstürzende Neubauten). After a short period recording From Her To Eternity in London in 1984, Cave moved to Berlin, and the brooding atmosphere of the art scene there helped him produce some songs that were both soaring and terrifying, like an eagle with knives, or a hot air balloon with air-to-ground missiles. Here, in my humble opinion, are the five best songs of that Bad Seeds era, in no particular order.
1. "Tupelo," from The First Born Is Dead
A striking and intense way to kick off an album, Tupelo marries gospel-style preaching and apocalyptic lyrics to an intensely claustrophobic beat. Still a setlist regular today.
2. "The Weeping Song," from The Good Son
A mournful and dramatic duet between Cave and Bargeld, that became one of the Bad Seeds' most enduring standards.
3. "The Mercy Seat," from Tender Prey
A strikingly poetic depiction of the thoughts of a man about to be executed, the track speeds up into a furious pace as both it and the execution reach a crescendo. Later covered to great effect by Johnny Cash.
4. "Papa Won't Leave You Henry," from Henry's Dream
Everything that defines early Bad Seeds, from the intricate lyricism to the acoustic guitar assaults to the chanted choruses to the build-up into a furious close are present in this album opener. It's both mesmerizing and capable of making you worry about Cave's mental state, a constant concern through early Bad Seeds albums.
5. "O'Malley's Bar," from Murder Ballads
Any worries about Cave's mental state were surely confirmed by this strangely gripping fifteen-minute intricately detailed account of a bar massacre in which he is the perpetrator. From an album which, as its name suggests, only features songs about murder. Let's chalk that one up to the heroin.
Honorable mentions: The Ship Song, Deanna, Do You Love Me?, City of Refuge, Jack the Ripper, Stagger Lee, The Curse of Milhaven, Red Right Hand, Loverman, Let Love In