Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Kicking Against The Pricks

Kicking Against The Pricks (1986)


1. Muddy Water 2. I’m Gonna Kill That Woman 3. Sleeping Annaleah 4. Long Black Veil 5. Hey Joe 6. The Singer 7. Black Betty 8. Running Scared 9. All Tomorrow’s Parties 10. By The Time I Get To Phoenix 11. The Hammer Song 12. Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart 13. Jesus Met The Woman At The Well 14. The Carnival Is Over


Rick Santorum is a fucking jerk off. He’s such a fucking jerk off that he’s no better than a hot, steaming bowl of Santorum fresh from your grandma’s asshole. Why is he such a jerk off? Well, for more reasons than I can count, but for right now I’m gonna focus on how he criticized Obama for not having “a theology based on the Bible.” OK, fine, let’s throw out that whole first amendment thing and govern the country based on a strict, devout interpretation of the Bible. So, what would happen? Well, teh gays wouldn’t be able to get married anymore, cuz it says so in Leviticus 20:13! Hallelujah! Let’s see, what else would happen… just a few minor changes to the law books, I guess. Nothing too serious. Just the outlawing of haircuts (Leviticus 19:27), wearing clothes made of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19 – sayonara, polyester!) and eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10). Also, the punishment for cursing out your parents or saying “god dammit” will be death by stoning. You were, saying, Rick? Yeah, yeah, I know the Old Testament is now supposed to be superseded by those Jesus parts and doesn’t count anymore. But you use it to cite how homosexuality is a sin all the time, and Jesus never even mentioned it! I’m assuming you’re making this exception because Jesus meant to talk about it, but just forgot to while he was rambling on about loving thy neighbor and how rich people can’t get into heaven and all that other nonsense you so-called Christians never actually listen to.

So apparently, the phrase “kicking against the pricks” also appears somewhere in the Bible, proving that on the seventh day, God did not rest, he created punk rock. Ironically, Kicking Against The Pricks contains by far the lowest concentration of unhinged Old Testament-fueled fervor of any Nick Cave album to this point. That, however, can be easily explained by the fact that it’s an all-covers album that sees the Bad Seeds exponentially expanding their stylistic range and arrangement skills. The source material is eclectic and unexpected—there are quite a few more hokey 50s country songs and ballads than there are pulls from the catalogs of Cave’s more obvious rock-oriented influences—which makes the band’s approach to and success at rendering this material all the more impressive. There’s not a whole lot here that would seem to have previously been within the Bad Seeds’ wheelhouse (a notable exception is the ragged rendition of John Lee Hooker’s “I’m Gonna Kill That Woman,” featuring Blixa and Hugo Race wrenching some truly nasty ass squawking noises from their six strings). Instead, it serves as a first step into the band’s golden era, in which furious rock, twisted interpretations of American roots music and sorrowful piano balladry shared equal time.

I guess this album was something of a learning experience for Nick and the boys – in order to learn how to write these kinds of songs—overall more melodic and diverse than their previous fare—they first had to sing and play the originals. No, they never ended up writing anything quite so corny as Gene Pitney’s British Invasion-era “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” or—get this—Tom Jones’ “Sleeping Annaleah” (actually one of the album’s clear highlights), but I can clearly hear how they absorbed lessons from both songs – melodic instrumental elements like the catchy little piano/organ motif in “Heart” or the carousel-like guitar riff of “Annaleah,” as well as the way Nick vocally commits to the melodramatic swells of the former and the happy, bouncy chorus of the latter point toward the improved arrangements of future Bad Seeds material.

Being a yokel at heart, I’m particularly pleased—and surprised—by how much country music there is on this album. Cave and Johnny Cash are always a good fit, musically and aesthetically (why? Because they’re both Australian. At least that’s what I assume, judging from the existence of Cash’s classic 1987 album Live At Outback Steakhouse. I dunno, he released so many goddamn albums – that one must have snuck in there at some point). This is confirmed by the stark, haunting, but still melodic “The Singer” and the powerfully morose, piano based “Muddy Water,” both of which had previously been covered by the man in black. But, unlike every dumbassed hipster in the Northeast, Nick has listened to country music besides Johnny Cash. Accordingly, he turns in excellent renditions of Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” the traditional spiritual “Jesus Met The Woman At The Well,” in all its faithfully campy glory, and “Long Black Veil,” on which Nick’s genius shows in that he successfully manages to turn one of the greatest and most harrowing American folk songs of all time into a drunken, good-time sing-along. Never fear, there are rock songs, too… I’m actually not a huge fan of this dissonant, noise-driven version of “Hey Joe” (it says something real good about the band’s song selection process that this is the only particularly well-known tune on the album. Unless you count Ram Jam’s previous cover of “Black Betty,” I guess. But somehow I don’t think that’s where Nick picked it up from). But the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” is absolute tits… the original’s mad drone kicked into high gear. Blixa’s prominent co-lead vocals are a nod to Nico’s heavy German brogue on the original… why that nod had to be made his anyone’s guess. I just want to strangle that woman anytime I listen to “Femme Fatale” and hear her pronounce “clown” like “clon.”

I’m going to close with a math equation: marshmallows + beer + eating competition = epic amounts of puke. For the love of god, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

One Comment

  1. You just described the Velvet Underground as, “absolute tits.” Sometimes I wonder about you.

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