Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Your Funeral… My Trial

Your Funeral… My Trial (1986)

A-

1. Your Funeral, My Trial 2. Stranger Than Kindness 3. Jack’s Shadow 4. The Carny 5. She Fell Away 6. Hard On For Love 7. Sad Waters 8. Long Time Man 9. Scum

 

Well, so much for those fun, feel good covers, eh, (Little) Nick(y, a movie that now seems brilliant and hilarious in comparison to the truly abominable, not even fit for 6-year olds with ADD bullshit that Adam Sandler puts out now. Free association FTW!)? Nope, it’s back to the constant, oppressive gloom and doom like he’s trying to convince depressed people to kill themselves or become vampires or something. This album is really fucking great, but I’ll tell you why it’s not as great as it could’ve been: heroin. Heroin is bad, mmkay? And I’m not talking about the health risks or anything; go ahead and inject whatever you want to into your bloodstream. I could give a shit, it’s a free country. But when you’re a rock star, heroin mutes your abilities and causes you to make really slow, lazy, muddy-sounding music! And when you want to rock out, you can’t, because you just want to take another hit and nod off! Look no further for evidence than the Rolling Stones’ Goats Head Soup, which is literally a 45-minute audio recording of Keith Richards taking a nap in a toilet stall (yeah, I still gave it a B+, but the guy wrote “Satisfaction” in his sleep, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the album is pretty good). Now, because Nick Cave is a genius and Mick Jagger is a no-talent hack who won’t last two years in the music industry, the songs found on the fourth Bad Seeds album, Your Funeral… My Trial are, compared to those on Soup, evocative, brilliant, emotionally crushing pieces of work. Unfortunately, Nick Cave, at the time this album was recorded, was not only a genius, but a junkie (or “gunkie.” Pronounced with either a hard or soft “g.” Whatever feels right). As a result, much of YFMT is bogged down by DRAGGY, MUDDY production that threatens to mar its STUNNING, BRILLIANT songs! Also, there is an ellipsis in the title, which is pretentious bullshit, but I shouldn’t expect anything less from Nick Cave, who allegedly is an arrogant prick.

That was a godawful first paragraph. Let’s wait until tomorrow to write the rest of this review when I’m not experiencing that dynamic combination of drunkenness, sleepiness and maddening impatience. *14 hours pass*… Hi there! I’m back. Sorry about that. So to paraphrase all that rambling crap up there, Your Funeral features, by far, Nick and the boys’ strongest batch of original songs yet, but the album might take a bit more time to love due to the drug-induced fog the band is trying their best to muscle through here. I can’t say enough about how emotionally devastating these compositions are, and the maturity and thoughtfulness apparent in the song construction here has grown by huge leaps and bounds since The Firstborn Is Dead was released just a year before. They really took the lessons they learned from doing Kicking Against The Pricks to heart… no more seven-minute, two-chord blues drones or making a bunch of jungle monkey noises and calling it a song. These tunes have riffs, verses, choruses, hooks, interesting arrangements and eclectic stylistic elements. In effect, everything you could ever want from a classic Nick Cave album. But for me, there’s just something a little off about it sonically that prevents me from bumping it up another half grade. I mean, all these early Nick Cave albums have that tinny, muted 80s production sound we all know and love, so that you have to turn them all up to 11 just so you can hear the damn things. Add that to Nick’s heroin addiction, and I feel like I’m not getting as much out of these songs as I could. Take “Jack’s Shadow”… pretty much everything about this song is perfectly put together, from the bluesy acoustic guitar intro to the anxious, gnawing, circular guitar riff to the desperate, hammering “the sun is shining” refrain. But it just never really grabs me by the balls like it should. I’m being very subjective here, of course… I just feel like there isn’t always that extra punch present when it should be. The track most wronged by this subtle languidness is the moaning “Stranger Than Kindness.” With a meatier guitar tone, it could’ve been a masterpiece… as is, the guitars just kind of flick along wispily, which makes Nick sound less suicidal and more like he’s sleepwalking.

Well, now that I’ve expended over 700 words on describing what I don’t like about an album I gave an A- to, I can get to the part where I talk about what I do like. See, even if I’m not crazy about the muddy production, I know and can accept that it’s a (perhaps intended) part of the album’s dark, desolate feel and mission to depress the listener as much as possible. And boy, did Nick come up with some depressing fucking songs for this one. On most Bad Seeds albums, he sounds like he’s playing a mythical character; a black-clad, hyper-literate bringer of evil and bad feelings who broods and scowls and scares your mother. On Your Funeral, on the other hand, he sounds frighteningly human. I couldn’t imagine him being able to write something that’s as much of a thorough downer as the title track if he weren’t experiencing some heavy emotions at the time… there’s too much despair in those dramatic, tolling piano chords. In the insistently buzzing “She Fell Away,” Cave’s protagonist ponders suicide over extreme heartbreak, and one gets the feeling he might pull the trigger if he didn’t have as much of an incentive to stick around as the fleshly indulgence of his carnal animalism (outlined in the skull-shaking, pulsating rocker “Hard On For Love”). Best of all is the album’s eight-minute centerpiece,  “The Carny,” otherwise known as the most unsettling, evil-sounding carnival waltz you will ever hear. The spoken word lyrics read like a brilliantly macabre short story or long poem, the details of which I don’t want to divulge too much of so as not to spoil your fun… let’s just say that people die, which shouldn’t come as a surprise – this is Nick Cave we’re talking about, after all.

Boy, this is sure one downer of an album. We (or at least I… speak for yourself, there, Jer) tend to think of all Nick Cave albums as depressing to a degree, but where there is a certain amount of swagger—and certainly humor—on other records, here there is only insecurity, uncertainty and pain. Thank god it ends (or the original vinyl version does, anyway) with a cover of Tim Rose’s “Long Time Man,” which lyrically isn’t particularly uplifting, but at least it’s all major chords and has an upbeat, anthemic groove to it. Otherwise I’d be about ready to slit my wrists by the time this thing is over. Come to think of it, maybe that’s another reason I can’t quite put this record on a great pedestal of gloomy gothdom that many people do – I’m too happy. My bad on that one. But Your Funeral is still one hell of a punch in the gut.



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