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Nick Cave
and The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave

Formed London 1984

After Australian band The Birthday Party split in 1983, vocalist Nick Cave decided to launch a solo career, accompanied by a band he dubbed The Bad Seeds. The Seeds’ line-up has changed frequently over the years, though multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey (also from The Birthday Party) and guitarist Blixa Bargeld (who maintains a night job with German noise-experimentalist Einstürzende Neubauten) have been constants.

At the outset, Cave, Harvey and Bargeld were joined by Barry Adamson (ex-Magazine; bass/guitar), Hugo Race (drums) and, just in time for their first album From Her To Eternity (1984), synth-player Anita Lane. Later notable Seeds included drummer Thomas Wydler (from 1986), guitarist Kid Congo Powers (ex-Cramps/Gun Club; from 1986), and pianist Conway Savage (from 1992).

Cave and the Seeds’ first single, a cover of “In the Ghetto” (1984), was evidence of a dual fascination—with Elvis and with cover versions. They went on to cover Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche” on the debut LP, From Her To Eternity, and Dylan’s “Wanted Man” on the follow-up, The Firstborn Is Dead (1985). Then in 1986 came Kicking Against The Pricks, an entire album of covers that peaked with “By the Time I Get To Phoenix,” transforming the cheesy original into a powerful and angst-laden epic of love and loss.

1986 was a real stormer of a year for Cave, who produced arguably his own strongest material on Your Funeral…My Trial. This album delivered his uncompromising ideology of Old Testament finality—people are good or bad and can do little about it. Significantly, Cave’s band took its name from William March’s novel The Bad Seed, about an apparently innocent young girl who is rotten to the core and comes from a long line of murderers. Cave’s work has been overwhelmingly based on such ‘bad’ souls—drunks, prostitutes, white trash and, in particular, murderers, who are faced with the (usually bad) consequences of their actions.

The classic Cave hero, brutal but aware of his own vulnerability, is the protagonist of “The Mercy Seat” on Tender Prey (1988). Cave’s finest eight minutes, the song relates the final moments of a convicted killer on Death Row, combining Biblical imagery with music of relentless and inescapable repetition: "And in a way I’m yearning/To be done with all the measuring of truth/An eye for an eye/And a tooth for a tooth/And anyway I told the truth/And I’m not afraid to die."

Cave is frequently charged with misogyny, and indeed several of his songs—both originals and covers—have been about the murder of women (“Hey Joe,” “Long Time Man,” “I’m Gonna Kill That Woman”). Yet some of his best songs have been love songs, like “Straight to You” or “The Ship Song,” a magnificent ballad on which Cave’s crooning was worthy of Scott Walker. Many such items featured on Cave’s 1994 album, Let Love In, suggesting marriage and fatherhood might have mellowed him, while a debauched happiness pervaded his “Wonderful World” duet with Shane MacCowan (1992). But long-time fans were doubtless relieved by Murder Ballads (1996), a ten-track litany of violent death featuring accomplices Shane MacCowan, PJ Harvey and— amazingly—Kylie Minogue, appearing as a girl who gets smashed with a rock and dumped in the river.

At the age of 38, Cave shows signs of slowing down. He has dabbled in other media, appearing in the films Wings of Desire (director Wim Wenders is a long-time fan) and Ghosts of the Civil Dead, and in 1989 published And the Ass Saw the Angel, an impressive Faulknerian tale of everyday murder and incest.

But his priority remains music, and Cave remains one of the most commanding and charismatic frontmen in the business.


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