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There is something reassuringly disturbing about Nicholas Edward ‘Nick’ Cave (born on 22 September 1957 in Warracknabeal in Australia), no other musician, to the same degree, exudes such an air of menace, like he is just as likely to lamp you one as pass you the salt. Of course this could all be carefully stage managed as nobody at TM-Towers actually knows the man (even though he only lives around the corner), but watch this performance of homo-erotic murder ballad 'Stagger Lee' and then tell us he’s not a bloody sight more scary than Fiddy Cent.

Of course being something of a loose cannon isn’t, of itself, a particularly desirable trait, but most good music falls into either the deep and profoundly moving category or the confrontational and profoundly unsettling camp and it’s the latter in which the vast majority of Cave’s oeuvre is located (his main lyrical preoccupations being death, love, violence and old testament blood and thunder), and all this from a middle class choir boy no less! A troubled (and troublesome) youth, Cave lost his father in a car accident at 19 – something he discovered whilst his mother was bailing him out of a police station on a charge of burglary – and was by his own admission "at a point in my life when I was most confused", but this confusion did at least begin to coalesce into a love of music and words in particular which in turn led to a band called The Boys Next Door and, less desirably, his long term love affair with Heroin.

The Boys Next Door (who would become the Birthday Party in 1980 - featuring Cave, Mick Harvey, Tracy Pew, Rowland S. Howard and Phill Calvert), became notorious for their full force feedback driven in-yer-face post-punk racket and Cave’s unhinged live performances and the band soon outgrew the Aussie scene and headed first for London and then Berlin before messily imploding due to ‘creative differences’ overworking and over-drugging, fragmented into Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls (Pew and Howard have both since sadly died). It was from this point on that Cave really hit his stride adding blues, gospel and ballads to the more angular post-punk and ramping the lyrical content up ten-fold, his words becoming far more explicitly narrative in nature (and also displaying, something with which very few people credit the man, a strongly developed sense of humour).

Fourteen albums would follow – the first seven of which, From Her to Eternity, The Firstborn Is Dead, Kicking Against the Pricks, Your Funeral… My Trial, Tender Prey, The Good Son and Henry's Dream, have just been re-released in expanded and re-mastered double disc editions, with the rest of the catalogue to follow later in the year – and unlike many of his peers, you can genuinely pick any one of them as a starting point (with the possible exception of 2003's Nocturama, his one weak miss-step) and then work your way in any direction through the entire catalogue. The material is consistently excellent, which is certainly due in no small part to the large revolving cast of musicians Cave has chosen to work with (at the last count the present and past Bad Seeds number fourteen, all of whom are consummate musicians in their own right, each with an open minded, experimental approach to making music). Indeed every album bears the unmistakable musical stamp of the players found thereon.

Back left to right Thomas Wydler, Mick Harvey, Martyn P Casey, front left Blixa Bargeld, Cave and Conway Savage All of which would have been more than enough to qualify Cave for our Class Act series, but obviously not enough for the man himself as, the now drug free, workaholic has also recorded possibly the most raw material since his Birthday Party days with Bad Seeds Warren Ellis Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos under the moniker of Grinderman in 2007, written and recorded soundtracks for many films including The Proposition, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Road with Warren Ellis (as well as several scores for theatre productions) acted in both Ghosts ... of the Civil Dead and Johnny Suede and written several books including King Ink, a collection of lyrics and plays, King Ink II, a collection of lyrics, poems, and the transcript of a radio essay, two novels - And the Ass Saw the Angel and The Death of Bunny Munro - oh and he’s also knocked out a script for a new film entitled The Death of a Ladies Man and won more awards than he can possibly have shelf space for. All this and he’s not close to running out of steam.

We’re still not sure we’d want him to actually move in next door to us, but we’re bloody glad he’s out there continuing to defy expectations (who else would record with PJ Harvey one minute and Kylie Minogue the next, both with exceptional results by the way), making the world just that little bit more unsettling a place to live in.
Andy Basire

Expanded and remastered double disc editions of From Her to Eternity, The Firstborn Is Dead, Kicking Against the Pricks, Your Funeral… My Trial, Tender Prey, The Good Son and Henry's Dream are available now on Mute records. For more information, visit www.nickcaveandthebadseeds.com

Class Act Archive

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