Murder Ballads brought Nick Cave's morbidity to near-parodic levels, which makes the disarmingly frank and introspective songs of The Boatman's Call all the more startling. A song cycle equally inspired by Cave's failed romantic affairs and religious doubts, The Boatman's Call captures him at his most honest and despairing - while he retains a fascination for gothic, Biblical imagery, it has little of the grand theatricality and self-conscious poetics that made his albums emotionally distant in the past. This time, there's no posturing, either from Cave or the Bad Seeds. The music is direct, yet it has many textures, from blues to jazz, which offer a revealing and sympathetic bed for Cave's best, most affecting songs. The Boatman's Call is one of his finest albums and arguably the masterpiece he has been promising throughout his career.
Nick Cave is a singular figure in contemporary rock music; he first emerged as punk rock was making its presence known in Australia, but though he's never surrendered his status as a provocateur and a musical outlaw, he quickly abandoned the simplicity of punk for something grander and more literate, though no less punishing in its outlook…
Nick Cave launched his solo career in style with From Her to Eternity, an accomplished album mixing the frenzy and power of his Birthday Party days with a dank, moody atmosphere that showed he was not interested in simply continuing what the older group had done. To be sure, Mick Harvey joined him from the Party days, as ever playing a variety of instruments, while one-time Party guest Blixa Bargeld now became a permanent Cave partner, splitting his time between the Bad Seeds and Einsturzende Neubaten ever since. The group took wing with a harrowing version of Leonard Cohen's "Avalanche," Cave's wracked, buried tones suiting the Canadian legend's words perfectly, and never looked back. From Her to Eternity is crammed with any number of doom-laden songs, with Cave the understandable center of attention, his commanding vocals turning the blues and rural music into theatrical exhibitionism unmatched since Jim Morrison stalked stages.
This music documentary weaves together performances from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' 2016 album Skeleton Tree with candid footage of Cave opening up about the death of his 15-year-old son. Directed by Andrew Dominik (Chopper, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford).
To open this oddball supergroup's debut, Paul Simonon hints at "Guns of Brixton," and when Tony Allen's flex rhythms come in, there's a shadow of Fela Kuti, too. Then Damon Albarn's slow grit of a voice enters–framed by Simon Tong's flecked guitar. And collectively, The Good, the Bad, & the Queen is quickly sui generis, adamantly different than anything you think you've heard. A band with this much power has at least two options: to cut loose raucously or to mute their overt power for a more covert, dub-inflected atmospheric potency. Smartly, Albarn and his crew opt for the half-light of elastic bass lines, the clouds between the parentheses of drums–the covert. It's not until "Kingdom of Doom," the erstwhile 'single' of the album, that motion expands beyond the languorous. And even then, Tony Allen largely sits out. You get the full flush of Simonon and Allen on "Three Changes" shuffling time even while holding the tempo to a dubbish gait. It's not Blur, the Clash, Fela, the Verve, or Gorillaz. It's more than just names on albums.
When Blixa Bargeld left Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, who would have predicted his departure would result in one of the finest offerings in the band's catalog? Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus is a double CD or, rather, two completely different albums packaged in one very handsome box with a stylish lyric booklet and subtly colored pastel sleeves. They were recorded in a total of 16 days by producer Nick Launay (Kate Bush, Midnight Oil, Girls Against Boys, Silverchair, INXS, Virgin Prunes, et al.). Abbatoir Blues, the first disc in the set (packaged in pink, of course), is a rock & roll record. Yeah, the same guy who released the Boatman's Call, No More Shall We Part, and Nocturama albums has turned in a pathos-drenched, volume-cranked rocker, full of crunch, punishment – and taste.
Besides being noteworthy as an astonishingly good all-covers album, Kicking Against the Pricks is notable for the arrival of a new key member for the Seeds, drummer Thomas Wydler. Besides being a fine percussionist, able to perform at both the explosive and restrained levels Cave requires, Wydler also allowed Harvey to concentrate on adding guitar and keyboards live as well as in the studio, a notable bonus. Race reappears briefly to add some guitar while former Birthday Party cohorts Rowland Howard and Tracy Pew guest as well, the latter on some of his last tracks before his untimely death. The selection of songs is quite impressive, ranging from old standards like "Long Black Veil" to everything from John Lee Hooker's "I'm Gonna Kill That Woman" and Gene Pitney's pop aria "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart." Matching the range of material, the Seeds are well on their way to becoming the rock/cabaret/blues showband of Cave's dreams, able to conjure up haunting, winsome atmospheres ("Sleeping Annaleah") as much as higher-volume takes (Roy Orbison's "Running Scared," the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties").