Last week saw the release of the second installment of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds re-issues. In addition to the first four albums rereleased last year, now Tender Prey, The Good Son and Henry’s Dream have all been given a makeover. As well as the remastered albums on CD, each also comes with a DVD. The DVD contains the album in 5.1 (for those interested in such), bonus songs, videos and an episode of the Do You Love Me? series of documentaries about each album, comprised of interviews with band members, associates, friends, lovers, fans, journalists etc. If you have been listening to Eclectic Mainline for the past few weeks, you will have heard me play several songs from these reissues, and if you listened last week, you will have heard me play one tune from each. Â In terms of the remastering, they really have improved the sound terrifically. Â I’ve always felt that some of The Bad Seeds’ albums from this period sounded a bit too toppy, and these new remasters have really warmed up the sound.
Tender Prey (1988) was a pivotal album, and signalled a maturing of Nick Cave’s writing, and increased thought going into the band’s playing. In terms of the latter, this may be because the line-up had grown from a quartet to a sextet. And in terms of the lyrics, the fact that Nick Cave was writing his first novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, was probably a factor. There is certainly a narrative quality in the vivid imagery of the album’s opener, The Mercy Seat. If Nick Cave had never written another song, he would forever have been remembered for this, an absolute masterpiece. It was no surprise when watching the interviews on the DVD to see a good 10 minutes spent talking about The Mercy Seat, its gestation, the production, and the response it got. As well as the interesting interviews on the DVDs the new sleevenotes are also enlightening. For instance, I didn’t know that Deanna (for the record, one o the first Nick Cave songs I heard) was inspired by Edwinn Hawkins‘ O Happy Day. Â The acoustic version of the song on the DVD, containing an interpolation of said song, confirms this. Tender Prey marked the end of the band’s Berlin era, and set the pattern for how they would evolve into the nineties.
The Good Son (1990) divided opinion upon its release. The newfound beauty and romanticism in the lyrics and the arrangements caught some off guard. As Flood (engineer and mixer) says on the DVD, there was a “lifting of the heaviness” with this album. Marianna Annas adds that the album has “an airiness and earthliness at the same time“. I’m sure most of the initial detractors have since seen the light, and the album now stands as many’s favourite. It is the first of their albums that has the capacity to bring a tear to my eye – particularly the relatively straight forward opening single, The Ship Song. I’d never seen this song’s video before until watching the DVD. I hadn’t realised that the album’s sleeve photo was taken at the video’s recording sessions, but it makes sense now. Incidentally fact fans, this is the only Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album that features anybody other than Nick Cave on the front cover photo.
The Good Son was mostly written and recorded in Brazil, and much of it, particularly The Ship Song, was inspired by Cave’s relationship with Brazilian Viviane Carneiro. The second single off the album, The Weeping Song is as remarkable as The Ship Song. Apparently it was written by Cave in the time it took him to walk to the shop and back. How on earth does he come up with such marvellous stuff so easily?! It’s not fair! If anybody can name a better two chord song, I want to know what it is. Â This is one song that shows up particularly well the improvements made with the remastering. Â The video could be considered to be an amplification of the lyrical content, as it makes clear the question and answer structure between Nick and Blixa Bargeld as the Father. Â This video also illustrates, as well as any, the inherent humourÂ in much of what Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds produce. Â Granted, it’s hardly Half Man Half Biscuit, but reading Nick Cave’s lyrics, seeing them live, or watching some of the videos, it is easily apparent that it’s a far cry from gothic doom and gloom.
Two key things to bear in mind about Henry’s Dream (1992) are that the line-up changed again (now including former Triffid Martyn P Casey on bass and Conway Savage on piano) and the album was also the first album to be produced by an established name, David Briggs, famously Neil Young’s producer. I didn’t know until watching the DVD and reading the sleevenotes that Briggs didn’t endear himself to the band, and they were not happy with the way the album’s sessions went. It was pleasing to see in the documentary that several people cited Martyn P Casey’s joining the band as so significant. As a bassist myself, I tend to notice bass players more than other people might, and Casey is one of my greatest inspirations. In fact, I was as excited to have met him as I was about meeting Nick Cave at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in 2007! Again, there was a lyrical leap with Henry’s Dream, further exploring the topics of love and tragedy. The album’s opener, Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry takes the narrative, poetic style of songs such as The Mercy Seat and runs with itâ€¦and runs, and runs. Â Apparently Nick Cave was inspired to write it for his baby son, and used to sing it to him. Â I’m not sure I’d want to sing all of that song to a small child, but then I’m not Nick Cave..! Â The album’s lead single is one of Nick Cave’s greatest poetic gems of love and loss, Straight To You. Paul A. Taylor sums it up in the DVD documentary: “There’s not many songs that take you straight up and down through those two emotions perfectly, and Straight To You does it perfectly“.
I had originally intended to embed the videos for The Mercy Seat, The Weeping Song, The Ship Song and Straight To You within this blog. Â However, as Mute have disabled the embedding option for these videos, I can’t do that. Â Instead, here is a link to The Weeping Song on theÂ Mute Youtube channel, where you can see some of the other videos too.
After recently writing about the late Mark Linkous and the late Alex Chilton here, it’s nice to be able to now sit and write about people who are still with us. I enjoyed writing about both of the above, as they meant a lot to me, but of course writing about somebody because they have just died is always tinged with sadness. Here’s hoping for many more years of listening to, and writing about, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.