Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Introductory Page

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds



Of all the adjectives that could be and have been used to describe Nick Cave—erudite, arrogant, terrifying, passionate, suave, hilarious, smarmy, cerebral, primal, drug-addicted, Australian—the one that probably appears most frequently is “literary.” Well, let’s see… he uses a lot of big words, and his lyrical themes are typically a lot more complex than, say, Bon Scott’s. So if that’s enough to get a songwriter slapped with the “literary” tag, then Mr. Cave most certainly qualifies. And I’m sure Nick even considers himself something of a literary/intellectual mind – he’s published two novels, after all. But see, when critics describe a lyricist as “literary,” it’s usually just code for “most rock lyrics are incredibly stupid and poorly written, and just because this guy can actually string a few words together coherently and even sounds like he once read a book, he seems smarter than everyone else!” That certainly applies to Nick Cave, but at least to me, the descriptor “literary” comes with other connotations: stuffy, un-relatable, tame.

Nick Cave does not fit this paradigm. His lyrics may have an intellectual bent to them, but he is no professorial lecturer. Ever since he burst out of the Outback with his wildly raging post punk outfit, the Birthday Party, in the late 70s, Cave has been a first class purveyor of brilliant music that teems with doom, pain, fury, sleaze, sex, desolation, hellfire, evil, death, curse words, and even remarkable beauty and love, all projected by his unforgettably overbearing, booming baritone. After the dissolution of the Birthday Party in 1983, Nick put together a rotating cast of supporting characters that have come and gone over the last 28 years, with a few members making longstanding, prominent contributions – most notably former Birthday Party guitarist Mick Harvey (guitar/percussion/keyboards, 1984-2009), thickly-accented German dude Blixa Bargeld (guitar, 1984-2003), also of Einstürzende Neubauten, and the thickly-bearded Warren Ellis (multi-instrumentalist, 1996-present), who has been Cave’s primary collaborator for the last 15 years and remains so to this day, with the Bad Seeds still going strong despite no longer featuring a single original member besides Cave himself.

Though the Bad Seeds’ early work was indebted to the furious sound of the Birthday Party, only with a greater emphasis on their fearsome style of balladry, the band soon began to incorporate their unique interpretations of influences such as American blues and lounge crooning into their sound. After hitting a commercial peak in 1996 with Murder Ballads, which featured duets with Cave’s fellow Australians Kylie Minogue and PJ Harvey, they entered a highly acclaimed phase dominated by poignant, gentle piano balladry, before reverting back to an irreverent, grimy garage rock sound just in time for Cave’s 50th birthday. Over the course of this journey, Cave has come to be recognized as one of the great cult songwriters in rock, and has turned out an astonishingly diverse and brilliant catalog of music.

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