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Nick Cave: Back With A Vengeance [1996] by Bradley Bambarger Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

New York-- Ironically, what could be the most uncompromising album of Nick Cave'slong career of artistic abandon could be his best shot yet at a worldwide hit.Thanks to the international success of his unlikely duet with Aussie siren KylieMInogue, "Where the Wild Roses Grow," the pump is primed for the Feb. 20 releaseof Cave's Murder Ballads on Mute/Reprise. "I've always wanted to write Kylie asong, to have her sing something slow and sad," Cave says. "I've always respectedher, and this shows she's capable of different things."

Issued in October overseas, the haunting 'Where the Wild Roses Grow' went to No.2 in Australia and hit the top 10 throughout Europe. Cave performed the song withMinogue twice on Britain's 'Top of the Pops' TV program, and the video is inheavy rotation on MTV Europe.

Never afraid to probe the dark side of life, Cave has a string of albums to hiscredit, both with his current ensemble, the Bad Seeds, and with this previousband, influential postpunk hellions the Brithday Party. But Muder Balladsfeatures some of Cave's strongest material to date--traditional and originalsongs that explore what he calls "the language of violence."

Best indicative of this violent lore is the standard 'Stagger Lee,' which Caveand the Bad Seeds cover with a vengeance. Cave says he senses a parallel betweensuch "bully ballads" and the fierce tales of gangsta rappers.

"I've heard various versions of 'Stagger Lee,' Cave says, "and the trick hasalways been to make him as bad as possible. Our version is one of the most evil,and that reflects the tenor of the times."

Though in keeping with the raw perfomance style of the Bad Seeds, MurderBallads is a departure form Cave's past work. The album incoporates much gallowshumor and, in addition to Minogue, features PJ Harvey.

Cave and Harvey have been mutual admirers for years, and Harvey frequentlycites Cave as an influence. The two trade vocals on 'Henry Lee,' with Harveytaking the role of the scorned, wrathful woman with her usual aplomb. 'Henry Lee'goes to European radio as a second single in late February.

Mute and Reprise have not yet decided on the first U.S. single, but they areleaning toward 'Where the Wild Roses Grow.' "I think that song could be a majorhit here," says Craig Kostick, Reprise senior VP, of artist development, "But'Henry Lee' has the cachet of PJ, and that's not to be discounted."

Kostich says the first single will go to college and commercial alternativeradio in late January or early February. Videos featuring Cave with his gueststars have been shot for both tracks.

Mark Fotiadis, VP/GM of Mute U.S., says, "It's time to get aggressive in takingNick to the next level here. We did pretty well but probably not quite what wecould have with his last album, considering he played Lollapalooza '94. But hehad that great track on the 'Batman Forever' soundtrack, and this album isstrong."

Cave's previous album, 1994's Let Love In, has sold 50,000 copies in the U.S.That figure combines SoundScan numbers with Cave's considerable mom and pop storeand import sales, according to Mute.

Helen Rush, buyer at Kim's Underground in New York, says that Murder Balladsshould appeal beyond Cave's cult following. "The theme of the record makes itreally interesting. Plus, all the guest stars, especially PJ, will attract morepeople," she says.

Robin Edgerton, music director for WFMU New York, says she can't wait to playMurder Ballads, adding, "We've always been big fans of Nick Cave."

Murder Ballads is the fist Cave album on Mute to be released through Reprise.Cave's past three records were issued via Mute's now-expired deal with Elektra.Last year, Mute reissued Bad Seeds catalog titles through ADA.

Cave's corpus of song is published by Windswept Pacific in the U.S. and by MuteSong in the UK The Bad Seeds' booking agency is Monterey Peninsula Artists in theU.S. and the U.K.'s Fair Warning/Wasted Talent internationally.

Although Cave and the Bad Seeds and special guests will play Australia's BigDay Out festival this month, there won't be a tour to support Muder Ballads. Thatsuits Mute chairman Danial Miller just fine, he says, because the album wasinteneded as an extracurricular project.

"The single being a success through so many territories is a pleasantsurprise," Miller says. "But the priority is for Nick to go into the studio forthe next album and further his artistic direction."

Cave says the time off from touring will allow him to concentrate on projectsthat the road discourages, such as scoring films. Cave and bandmates Mick Harveyand Blixa Bargeld have collaborated on the score to two films by Australiandirector Johnny Hillcoat.

Cave also recently worked with one of his favorite bands, fellow Australiansthe Dirty Three. Cave collaborated with the instrumental combo on a track for anupcoming album from the television show 'The X-Files.'

Cave sings live with the Dirty Three occasionally and says he would love torecord a full-length album with the band. "I want to do something that isn't NickCave or the Dirty Three but some strange, beautiful crossbreed," he says.

Additionally, Cave says the majority of the next Bad Seeds album is alreadywritten. The band plans to go into the studio later this year to complete therecord, with a world tour to follow.

As for Cave's next album don't expect more mayhem. "The appeal of MurderBallads is in the storytelling and the rhyme and language more than the subjectmatter," he says.

"My interest in the drama of crime and violence is diminishing, " Cavecontinues. "It's a dead end, no pun intended. This record closes a chapter forme."


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