OK, first off we all have to admit how ridiculous it is to rank The Bad Seeds’ albums, chiefly because of the fact that the form demands that certain albums need to be ranked toward the bottom of the list and be therefore deemed the band’s ‘worst’ albums or in some way ‘substandard’. Albums you or other weirdos like you might deem their favourites may well prop up the list and you may receive a jolting shock to your cultural sacks that you likely won’t recover from. The reason this list is likely to offend more than similar ones is because over the course of their nearly 30 years career The Bad Seeds have never released a bad album. I’d argue that they’ve never released even a subpar one. No, that one you’re thinking of? Get over yourself, that has brilliant moments and is number thirteen. The worst/least brilliant albums by The Bad Seeds would still be career highlights of lesser contemporaries like Pearl Jam or The Cure or The Beastie Boys. Just see this as 16 Bad Seeds albums ranked in order of their amazingness. If number 16 is your personal favourite, then your personal favourite is still an amazing album. Just be aware that ‘your personal favourite’ is subjective, while this list is official and objective. So it’s the 16th best. As long as you’re cool with that.
Perhaps my own personal perspective has to come into this. I first encountered Wavey Cavey and his Stinky Eggs as a precocious and hormonally operated thirteen year old with 1997’s The Boatman’s Call. This has probably meant that my entire idea of Nicholas and his Naughty Nuts has been through the frame of an achingly beautiful smack addict singing delicate odes to PJ Harvey (and probably, let’s face it, smack). If you’re disgustingly old enough to first come across The Bad Seeds when they first set sail in the 1980s- or even through Cave’s previous band The Birthday Party– then…
Well, then first of all you really are too old and decrepit to possess any worthwhile opinions. Your should be ashamed of your advancing years and retreat into functional alcoholism. I’m not explicitly saying that you should kill yourself, I’m just making sure that you’re aware that your death will have no real impact on the wider world and on a functional level you may as well kill yourself. OK? Good. Glad that we all understand.
Also, approaching The Bad Seeds from an ‘OG’ perspective may lead you to rate his earlier none more goth albums- the ones that are occasionally punctuated with distorted screams of “THE ORGAN GRINDER’S MONKEY FUCK’S THE VIRGIN MARY BLOODY CUNT WITH A RUSTY CRUCIFIX!”, and the like- a lot higher than I have. That’s cool. We’re all friends. But, scientifically, I’m correct and you’re wrong. And horrendously old. Seriously, what’s that smell? Oh. It’s you. That’s just what old people smell like. Ew.
Before we start, a few rules:
- I’m not rating albums based on their importance or their cultural impact or significance if they had a song that was in Scream AND Peaky Blinders. I’m rating them based on how good the music contained within is. If all these albums were released this year, this is how I would rank them in my end of year list.
- Studio albums only. No ‘Live Seeds’ or ‘Live from KCRW‘ no nuthin’ that was recorded live. I mean, Jesus, writing this list now is the first time I’ve realised they even released two other live albums that I didn’t even know about!
- That also means no compilations. Yeah, it’s obvious that such a list won’t contain either of the ‘best of’ compilations– because they would obviously have to finish first, otherwise calling them ‘best of’ would be false advertising- but also means sadly no place for the brilliant ‘B-Sides & Rarities‘ compilation.
- Albums that are other artists other than Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds will also not be included. So if you’re reading this wondering how high ‘Ocean Drive‘ by The Lighthouse Family will be ranked, I’m letting you know now that it won’t be included. ‘Ocean Drive’ by The Lighthouse Family is actually by The Lighthouse Family, not Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, so actually wouldn’t qualify. Do you understand?
- Finally, no covers albums. None of them. Not a single covers album released by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds will be considered. Sigh… Alright, the thing is… I’ve never heard ‘Kicking Against the Pricks‘, the one cover album that the band ever released. I mean, yeah, I could just listen to it now, perhaps using that link I’ve just provided, but it would be at such a disadvantage to the other albums that I’ve had time to develop emotional attachments to that it doesn’t really seem worth it. it’s not my fault! For my birthday many, many years ago, my wife Samantha gave me all the Nick Cave albums that I didn’t yet own on CD (it was a different time) and she didn’t include ‘Kicking Against the Pricks’!! It’s her fault! Fuck you, Samantha, you’ve ruined my life/this list!!
It’d probably finish near the bottom though, let’s face it. Anyway, which album have I ranked lowest? Well, remember that blog title…?
16 From Her to Eternity (1984)
Yeah, I know, I’m an absolute philistine for placing this so low. For many people/idiots, this is peak Nick Cave: it’s dirty, it’s scummy, it’s cheap, it’s raw and it’s more goth than Edgar Allen Poe scratching the name of Ville Valo onto his school desk in black eyeliner as he rolls his eyes at the conformists paying attention during double maths. It’s also incredibly silly. I’m sorry, but despite the brilliant sonic ideas and explosive effectiveness, this albums still frequently sounds like a laughably overblown attempt to scare the bands’ parents into stop going on at them about cleaning their room. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”, say the defenders, waving their chubby finger in the air as their other hand attempts to both have their cake and eat it, “But it’s satire! It’s supposed to be silly! If you think it’s ridiculous, that’s kind of the point!!”. Fine. Cool. Whatever. Just because it’s intended to be a goofy Hammer Horror schlockfest, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a goofy Hammer Horror schlockfest. When I took a dump on the photocopier at work, the fact that I explained how I was making a point about workers’ rights under Conservative rule didn’t change the fact that all our photocopies smell fantly of poo to this day.
Like I explained though, the least amazing Nick Cave album is still an amazing album. Underneath it’s silliness and loltastic goofy ghoul, ‘From Her to Eternity’ is still an absolutely incredible piece of work, musically shocking and arresting to this day. In fact… listening to it now… have I ranked it too low… But… the ‘From ‘From her to Eternity’…’ blog title wouldn’t work otherwise…
The Baddest Seed: From Her to Eternity
15 The Firstborn is Dead (1985)
Whooooooooah, mama! The Bad Seeds’ second album opens with Tupelo and it’s immediately evident that we are dealing with some real shit now. The band’s first album still largely dealt in the schlock and awe of the Birthday Party, but on their sophomore effort* the band instead deal in… Well, still mostly schlock and awe, but with much improved songwriting and the adopting of far more tropes that we’d soon consider vital to the whole Bad Seeds Experience. The band’s obsession with the American deep south intensifies and the influences become musically clearer; the title refers to the stillborn twin of Elvis Presley, continuing a common reference point that started with an In the Ghetto cover on the debut album and continues all the way to the latest album ‘Ghosteen’; there’s an actual song called Black Crow King, which is… come on… too easy…
(*I hate it when a band’s second album is referred to as their ‘sophomore effort’. I can’t explain why, it just really irritates me. I thought I’d try it out here, but it’s just confirmed that it really isn’t for me and actually makes me feel quite ill. Like that time in university when you let James urinate on your naked body because you figured that you really should be experimenting sexually at this stage of your life. Good to get these things out of your system, isn’t it? And anyway, there was a happy ending, James became the joint Foreign Office and international development minister and you learned a valuable lesson about sterilising bedsheets)
The album perhaps struggles to maintain the power and effectiveness of its debut track- still to this day one of the band’s greatest songs- but it’s a marked and definite development on from their debut and is the first album where it seems the band really start to understand the direction their going to take their music in.
The Baddest Seed: Tupelo
14 Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2007)
Talking of failing to live up to a storming first track…
I joke, I joke.
‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’ is a funny one. It’s absolutely a great album. All of these albums are. Do I need to keep stating that? Yet there’s something strangely anodyne and uninspired about it. The band add a few organs into their sound and then… just make a really good rock album? It’s perhaps contains Cave’s wittiest lyrics to date, pointing to him realising that a sense of humour is not automatically incompatible with great lyrics in his later career, but otherwise ‘Dig…’ might be one of the band’s least memorable and least effecting records. Most of the band’s other albums seem to be either pointing toward directions or perfecting styles they’ve previously introduced, but ‘Dig…’ gives the impression of an album being recorded just because the band felt that they should release a record soon. Take out the title track, Night of the Lotus Eaters and particularly We Call Upon the Author (one of the band’s greatest ever songs) and we have a collection of songs that are hardly worthy of the triple exclamation marks in the album title.
And yet… the album was absolutely hailed by critics. The band had hardly had the best press in the past but it seemed now the band had now reached ‘legendary’ status and whatever they released would be hailed as a landmark even if the contents were as occasionally bland as ‘Dig…’. When I named it the 12th best album of 2008 I mentioned Bruce Springsteen and it seemed as if the band would now be placed on the same level as him among critics in the future. The band would no longer be expected to challenge themselves or explore new directions, just keep pumping out typically decent albums and they’d be guaranteed the Brucie Bonus of at least a four star review. I wonder if the band themselves noted this and chose to take a five year break before releasing a trilogy of albums that completely rewrote their sound.
That mustache though? Amazing.
The Baddest Seed: We Call Upon the Author
13 Nocturama (2003)
Yeah, I know, I’m legally obliged to put this album at the bottom of this list. It’s almost been scientifically accepted that ‘Nocturama’ is Cave’s weakest album in the same way it’s been scientifically accepted that paying 5p for plastic bags will reduce climate change. People slate it for pretty much the same reasons as I have issues with ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’- it’s uninspired, it’s a little drab, there’s no real progression or evolution. I guess, this is all technically true, and that next to the ball shattering amazingness of the previous album ‘No More Shall We Part’ it can’t help but seem like a substandard retread. But… but… but… but this is a freaking gorgeous album in places. Sure, songs like Right Out of Your Hands and Still in Love and She Passed By My Window might not be Earth shattering pieces of sonic reinterpretation, but they’re still lovely little songs. Sure, people expect a lot better than ‘lovely little songs’ from Nick Cave, but based entirely on their own merits these are wonderful pieces of work. And the highs- or lord the highs!- are magnificent. From the 15 minute Babe I’m on Fire to the astonishing Bring it On to Rock of Gibraltar. I had Rock of Gibraltor played at my wedding! I mean, sure, the marriage didn’t last long, but that’s not Nick Cave’s fault! That was the fault of the pet chimpanzee that I introduced to the household six months in! Nick Cave wasn’t to know that chimpanzee would quickly both sleep with and murder my wife (not necessarily in that order)! Leave Nocturama alone!!
The Baddest Seed: Bring it On
12 Your Funeral… My Trial (1986)
The band’s (proper) third album is the first Bad Seeds record that’s recognisably a Bad Seeds album. It’s the one where they introduce styles and tropes that aren’t just emblematic of the band’s early career, but can still be heard on their albums to this day. It’s perfectly balanced with beautiful piano odes (the title track), no less gorgeous near satanic darkness (Stranger Than Kindness), brilliant gothic-with-a-small-g rock (Jack’s Shadow) and wonderfully controlled lunacy (The Carny). There’s also a brilliant scuzzy rock song called Hard On for Love so, really, everyone’s happy. The first absolutely essential Bad Seeds album.
The Baddest Seed: Your Funeral My Trial
11 Henry’s Dream (1992)
‘Henry’s Dream’ sometimes feels like the forgotten album of Bad Seeds Phase 2*. It’s pretty ace though, with the opening Papa Won’t Leave You Henry being one of the band’s most powerful songs and Straight to You one of their more beautiful.
(*an era that I’ve completely made up, that sees the Bad Seeds concentrating more of actual songs and legitimate beauty and not so much on screamed exaltations to the Dark Lord of Fuck to drop evil puss on the savage crows of the underworld, leading to more (spit) mainstream acceptance.. This runs from 1990’s ballad laden ‘The Good Son’ all the way up until the slight wet fart of 2003’s ‘Nocturama’)
The Baddest Seed: Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry
10 Push the Sky Away (2013)
The first album of Bad Seeds Phase Four* took a long time for me to properly appreciate. Back when I declared it the 22nd best album of 2013, I grumbled that “there’s nothing here that you’d put on the Nick cave ‘best-of’ compilation” and that it was “slightly dispensable and stuck in second gear”. I didn’t appreciate that Bad Seeds Phase Four wasn’t about banger after banger to stuff into future retrospective compilations, it was about creating albums that hung together beautifully. ‘Push the Sky Away’ is the start of a creative process that would lead to the incomparable ‘Ghosteen’ album. In retrospect, it’s probably Nickyboy-C’s biggest musical reinvention of his career, with next to no link with the underwhelming previous album ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’. Before this record, all bad Seeds music had inspired immediate reactions, but ‘Push…’ is the first one that demands you live with it as a piece of art for a long time and allow it to burrow into your orifices.
(*where the band became less concerned with conventional song structures and any plebeian ‘verse/chorus/verse’ dynamics and instead decide to sonically soundtracking humanity in increasing intensity and with decreasing rhythms. Basically, the trilogy of this, 2016’s ‘Skeleton Tree‘ and last year’s ‘Ghosteen‘. More beauty, less bangers)
The Baddest Seed: Push the Sky Away
9 Tender Prey (1988)
The final and greatest album of Bad Seeds Phase One* explodes into being with The Mercy Seat. Definitely the band’s greatest accomplishment at that point, perhaps still the band’s greatest accomplishment at this point, and almost definitely the quintessential Bad Seeds song, one you’d play to Aunty Margret if she asked what the band’s deal was.
(*the initial, screaming death upon Biblical whores amid instrumental Gothic insanity phase of the band’s career)
The foundations were laid for Bad Seeds Phase Two, in which the band would become far more concerned with- rather than trying to challenge the listener with sonic screams from the abyss- looking to fill their albums with banger after banger after banger. ‘Tender Prey’ is an utterly perfect collection of songs: even without considering Mercy Seat, you’ve still got Up Jumped the Devil, Deanna, City of Refuge… Seriously, you guys, these albums are getting really good now. Nick Cave himself isn’t a fan of the record, calling it a ‘nightmare’ (“It is reflective of a group – particularly myself – who was just writing songs and there was no larger idea behind it. Sometimes some of the group was there, sometimes they weren’t. I hear bad production and I hear bad performances as well.”) but, honestly, what the fuck does he know? Did you know that Nick Cave is Australian? I’m not saying that’s an important thing to know, I’m just saying it’s only fair that you’re told that before you decide whether to trust anything he says. You understand? You understand.
The Baddest Seed: The Mercy Seat
8 The Good Son (1990)
The Bad Seeds enter the 90s and their Phase Two with by a long way their least dark album yet (all relative of course, it would be tough to describe any record with The Weeping Song and Sorrow’s Child as anything approaching ‘light’) and acted as an introduction to the kind of incredible songcraft coupled without losing that bracing Bad Seeds lunacy that they’d built up across their previous four (proper) albums. If anything, ‘The Good Son’ might even overcompensate slightly- this is by far the band’s most commercial sounding and accessible album, and would probably remain so until 2003’s ‘Nocturama’. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing- when The Bad Seeds make music that’s commercial and accessible, they come up with magic like The Ship Song and Lucy.
Sigh, I tried to warn you about the Australians. An extremely aggressive race of people.
The Baddest Seed: The Ship Song
7 Skeleton Tree (2016)
Solid boned skeleton tree, opens the most intricate locks. Brother roll another for me, I am shipwrecked on the rocks. OK, so maybe the absence of a cover of The Coral song means that this album could never be considered completely perfect, but, seriously you guys, can we not just stand up and applause this fucking album? There might be better albums in The Bad Seeds’ canon (roughly six), but I don’t know if another one of their records seems so complete, so perfectly constructed, such an obvious triumph of delicate composition being so thoroughly realised. The second album of Bad Seeds Phase Four sees Cave continuing his departure from narrative based and easily deciphered lyrics in favour of mood pieces and freeform improvisation tapping into the very idea of human consciousness. Not once does he claim to have a ‘hard on for love’.
However, this didn’t suit the public or the press. More than ever in the band’s career, everyone needed a narrative. During the album’s production, and after much of it had already been written, Nick Cave’s fifteen year old son Arthur died after accidentally falling off a cliff. Like the disgusting fucking vultures that we all are, we were delighted by this, and couldn’t wait to pore over the lyrics to the band’s next album to link exerts and phrases to Arthur’s death, like ‘Skeleton Tree’ was Nick Cave’s 40 minute YouTube REACTION! video for us to delight in stuffing full of presumptions and prejudgments. When I was searching for photos of Nick Cave and his wife so that I could make that (absolutely fucking hilarious) picture to accompany my ‘Push the Sky Away’ piece, the vast majority of the Google image results were long distance photos of Cave and his wife attending their son’s funeral. This is the culture we live in and we are all culpable. Apart from me. We should all be ashamed. Apart from me. I’m cool.
You know what? Maybe, despite it being mostly written before Arthur’s death, maybe that lyric is about Arthur! Maybe that lyric is! Oooh! Hear that drum roll on Girl in Amber?? So about Arthur! Maybe it’s all about Arthur! Maybe it’s about his other son Jethro? Maybe it’s about his other son Luke?! Maybe it’s about Tracy Pew, the former Bad seeds member who died in 1986? Maybe it’s about Johan Botha, the South African opera singer who died on the day of the album’s release? Maybe it’s about Mary Bale, the woman who put that cat in the bin in 2010? Maybe it’s about that dress? Remember that dress? Maybe it’s about that?
It’s art. It’s about everything. Bring your own meaning to it. The sheer wonder of this album was somewhat overshadowed by people desperate to pick over its bones searching for tastily morbid scraps. As I stated when I named it the (joint) sixth best album of 2016, “context has conspired against it and demanded that each line be investigated through this new prism”. It’s an incredible album. Stop using it as tabloid fodder, you ghoulish cunts.
The Baddest Seed: I Need You
6 Murder Ballads (1996)
You want narrative, huh? You want fucking narrative?? You want narrative about death?? Oh-ho-ho! Step forward, naive traveler, have I got the album for you! What’s that? You want Kylie Minogue to be beaten to death with a rock? You sick, sick bastard! But, erm, yeah, we’ve got you covered.
‘Murder Ballads’ is so obviously a spiky response to the ghoulish fervour around ‘Skeleton Tree’, giving the public the explicit and comically gruesome depictions of death that they were so obviously hoping for from ‘Skeleton Tree’. What makes the response all the more impressive is that it was actually released twenty years before ‘Skeleton Tree’.
That’s not the only way that ‘Murder Ballads’ feels oddly out of time in the band’s career. It’s almost a mid-career crisis of an album, with the band seemingly worried if they’d perhaps gone a little too soft and accessible, and wanted to revisit the horror and shock value of their early career. Less ‘come sail your ships around me’, more ‘I’ll fuck Billy in his motherfucking ass‘. However, rather than an embarrassing attempt to court controversy and reclaim ‘edginess’ that the project might have descended to in lesser hands, ‘Murder Ballads’ is an astonishingly strong collection of gripping (and occasionally hilarious) darkly humorous stories. It’s the band retreading some Phase One tropes of death, horror and Biblical terror through the Phase Two prism of expert song writing and unbelievably consistent albums. Also (and somewhat perversely), it became the band’s commercial breakthrough, with the aforementioned Minogue bludgeoning becoming by far their biggest hit, and also became their first number one album in…
“Since I was no bigger than a weevil/They’ve been saying I was evil” though? Unforgivable line…
The Baddest Seed: Song of Joy
Bad Seeds Phase Three is the hardest phrase to categorise and the most difficult to explain. It only consists of two albums that don’t really fit into Phase Two’s banger and ballad heavy songcraft, and definitely not into Phase Four’s experimentation and abstract mood pieces. It’s basically a phase in the Bad Seeds’ career where they didn’t really have any idea where they wanted to go as a band or what direction they wanted to go in musically. The two Phase Three albums are great examples of the good and the bad that can come out of such confusion. ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’ was the sound of a band wondering if they were ‘just’ an astonishingly great rock band, content to ‘just’ release brilliant rock albums for the rest of their career while happily accepting all the Brucie Bonuses handed to them by the critics. ‘Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus’ though, is a brilliant example of what the band can create when they have no fucking idea what they’re doing, so decide to throw everything they can think of at the wall. All at once. Over a double album. ‘Abattoir…’ is a ridiculous mess, as the band scream out wall of sound gospel music turned up to fucking twelve (coupled with a more restrained second disk of it only turned up to maybe nine). But, fuck me, what a gorgeous mess. The Bad Seeds obviously recognised that the poorly received (by some people!!) ‘Nocturama’ was a line under the second phase of their career and ‘Abattoir…’ is a fascinating (and utterly artistically satisfying) look at some of the ideas that the band were considering as their next direction.
And, fuck me, do we get every idea attempted here. The Bad Seeds are a Gothic gospel band now! No, wait, they’re a kind of bluesy rock band! No, scrap that, they’re a booming bass guitar driven… No, sorry, they’re now an epic Christian rock… Shit… no… was that a cow bell…?
The Baddest Seed: There She Goes My Beautiful World
4 Ghosteen (2019)
Recency bias? Perhaps, but I’ve previously explained how the opposite is in fact more often the case is music criticism (I do wish you’d keep up with all the truth bombs I frequently spit out onto this blog). Regency bias? Because Nick Cave is, like, the king, yeah? Perhaps, but I can;t help but feel that you’ve made that up. Deviancy bias?? Wow, I’m not sure what that would even entail, but I am fascinated and dearly wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
‘Ghosteen’ though, yeah? Ammi right? Fuck me to death and bury me pregnant, isn’t it? Mmmm? Yes? Bloody, bloody, bloody good game, y’hear me?
I haven’t really got anything to add to my review (click click click!!) that I wrote, like, yesterday, but ‘Ghosteen’ really is something else. It’s such an astonishingly perfect piece of work that it almost doesn’t seem right or even fair to rank it alongside some of the other records in the band’s discography. Like, they’re just collections of great songs, prosaic albums like ‘Silver Side Up‘ by Nickelback or ‘Call Me Irresponsible‘ by Michael Bublé. ‘Ghosteen’ is a suite of emotions tied to songs that don’t necessarily need to be separated. A legitimate work of art rather than a plebeian collection of songs intended to get your head nodding. If this were the curtain closer on Bad Seeds Phase Four* then it would be an extremely fitting end, as it builds on and improves facets introduced in the phase’s initial two albums. The biggest issue is… where the fuck does the band go from here…? Do we next get a ‘Noctorama’ style slightly fudged attempt at retreading this album, or a ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’ shrug of the band’s shoulders as they struggle to find a new identity? Or do we get an ‘Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus’, where the band just goes fucking mental? I can’t wait.
(*I talk of ‘Push the Sky Away’, ‘Skeleton Tree’ and ‘Ghosteen’ being a ‘trilogy’ of albums as if that’s been a confirmed and accepted fact. I don’t know shit. Might not be a trilogy, the next album might make it a tetralogy. Not a fucking, ‘quadrilogy‘. Jesus Christ, Alien, buy a fucking dictionary, yeah?)
3 The Boatman’s Call (1997)
Absolutely perfect. You already know that, of course. You have ‘The Boatman’s Call’ on CD, it was the first Nick Cave album you heard, it’s the one you play the most, it’s the one you have in your car.
But… eeek… aaaaaargh… sheeeeeeeesh… I get kind of annoyed when people say that it’s The Bad Seeds’ best album. In terms of quality, I can absolutely understand- you’re unlikely to find a better twelve songs by any artist anywhere. Maybe you think it’s the best album by anyone, ever. That I can understand more, compared with other artists doing all their shit it absolutely deserves its place above your second favourite album (‘Leisure Noise‘ by Gay Dad). But to name it the best Bad Seeds album…? It’s… not a very Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album. It builds on the idea first attempted on ‘The Good Son’ of a more restrained and piano based album, but while ‘The Good Son’ still has an overbearing dread scratching just beneath the surface, ‘The Boatman’s Call’ is entirely somber and restrained. To amazing effect, don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely one of the greatest albums ever and contains a bucket load of the greatest ballads ever written. But, if you say this is the band’s greatest album, I worry that it’s not Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds that you actually like, considering this album contains so few of the defining tropes and distinctive emblems of The Bad Seeds’ music that…
Ah, fuck it, I’m gatekeeping aren’t I? This record is perfect (I’m just saying that the next two records are more perfect)
The Baddest Seed: Shit, this is an especially difficult one. Into My Arms is the obvious one, but do you really need to hear that again? (Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For? is perhaps (legitimately) my favourite ever love song, but then People Ain’t No Good and Idiot Prayer also have special places in my heart… Fuck it, just listen to it all!!
2 Let Love In (1994)
Ha! Now this- this, motherfuckers!- is most definitely a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album! From it’s absurdly low resolution cover of Nick Cave being apparently dragged to hell, to the banger after banger after banger of stone cold Bad Seeds classics (Do You Love Me?! Loverman! Nobody’s Baby Now!), to the absolutely perfect mix of Phase One diabolic imagery and darker than dark humour with Phase Two impeccable composition and immaculate songs without a shred of fat on their jiggling bones. ‘Let Love In’ sounds like the band collating every high point they’d hit in their ten year career and presenting them all perfectly as an untouchable album that references them as well as improving and building upon it all. It has the achingly beautiful ballads (Nobody’s Baby Now), the grissly Gothic epics (Red Right Hand), the unhinged scuzz punk (Jangling Jack) and just freaking impeccable rock songs (the title track). Everything that was wonderful about The Bad Seeds at that point is assembled and presented on this album, and after ten years in the business it sounded like a 48 minute wheeze of celebration that, somehow, the band had survived this long
1 No More Shall We Part (2011)
I’m sorry, it just… is.
I’ll accept that my own personal perspective might come into this. I was 16 when ‘No More Shall We Part’ was released. I was entering college and discovering amazing new things that existed at the end of especially great drug trips, and the magic that was created when you made beautiful girls smile and then the wonderful things that lay underneath their clothes. Suddenly, I was surrounded by cool guys and gorgeous girls that didn’t know me as the dorky ginger primary/secondary schooler who had been chronically shy for the last 5 years, to these new people I was just a cool 16 year old with a surprisingly arousing mohawk that had recently discovered alcohol and other amazing stimulants that meant I could talk to and then possibly have sex with all the freaking people in the world! Mostly women, but hey, I’m a hormonal sixteen year old with the golden ticket* to all the sexual experimentation I can handle! And I can handle a lot! ‘No More Shall We Part’ not only soundtracked all this, but also led to many wonderful casual relationships. You meet someone who loves ‘No More Shall We Part’? You have to have sex with that person. We were asked to bring in a poem to English class to discuss. I brought in the lyrics to Hallelujah and dissected how the line ‘My typewriter stood as mute as a tomb/And my piano stood in the corner of my room/With all it’s teeth bared’ was such an amazing metaphor for writer’s block (also referenced in the intentionally terrible line ‘I passed a cow and the cow was brown’). You have no idea how much that turns on teenage English Literature students. If this list were just based on personal experience, then no other album could ever top it.
(*drugs. Lots of drugs)
But this list isn’t based on personal experience. It’s scientific fact. If I ignore the fact that the album happened to soundtrack the very brief and extremely rare period in my life when I wasn’t completely repulsive to the opposite sex and instead put my Science Hat on, ‘No More Shall We Part’ is still the apex of The Bad Seeds’ recording career. Released four years after ‘The Boatman’s Call’, it’s the sound of the band recognising how their previous album, regardless of its unarguable quality, wasn’t entirely representative of their sound. ‘No More…’ takes obvious influence from ‘Boatman…’ and still contains some of the band’s/the world’s greatest and most poignant piano ballads (God is in the House, As I Sat Sadly By Her Side…) but the tones are markedly more witty and darker, bringing them more in line with both Phase One and Phase Four of their career. The album also sees them partially reject the restraint and somberness of ‘Boatman…’ and yet still manage to blend it beautifully into reticent freak outs. Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow and Oh My Lord are The Carny performed by the ‘Boatman…’ era Bad Seeds and they’re, fuck me, incredible. The album is the band recreating their earlier insanity and venom but through their new restrained style that ‘Boatman…’ had introduced, and also performing bracing love songs that are still laced with early Bad Seeds danger (‘If he touches you again with his stupid hands/His life won’t be worth living‘).
‘No More Shall We Part’ is everything that’s ever been amazing about The Bad Seeds. Do you agree? Post your suggestions in the comments and… Actually, I really don’t care. And your opinion’s wrong.
The Baddest Seed: Take your pick, though I have to say Oh My Lord is sparking particular fires in my loins right now.
Sigh… “So what did you do on Saturday…?”