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BOOK REVIEW: Bad Seed [1996] by Keith Cameron (New Musical Express) Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

"Sometime during 1983, Nick Cave got onto the London Underground, pulled a syringe from his arm and began writing a letter in his own blood. Then there was the time in 1986 when the Bad Seeds cancelled a gig in New York because Nick was in jail, or the following year when they trashed a film festival gala attended by the cream of German society. And as for the difference of opinion with the journalist in Amsterdam..."

Yes, Ian Johnston's long-awaited account of Nick Cave and his "colourful" career thus far does not disappoint. Soberly and straightforwardly written- in marked contrast, therefore, to much of the activity described- "Bad Seed" distills what must have been a daunting wealth of archive material and oral history into an immensely readable consideration of a complex subject. What's most impressive is how Johnston maintains a steady grip on the details of this vast tale, casting a commendably non-judgmental eye over the unhinged proceedings.

How Cave managed to work at all, let alone amass such an inordinately rich canon, at times beggars belief. Johnston hits upon the modus operandi of this shy reluctant star: "His work elevated him from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Having always felt dysfunctional in any form of social interaction, his writing and drugs insulated him from the outside world".

Paying tribute to the unbounded patience of Mick Harvey, whose relatively intact memory clearly served him well, the author equates the more personal tenor of the last three Bad Seeds albums with Cave's realisation that he could still produce valid artistic statements without relying on drugs.

One sole criticism must be that ending on the release of Let Love In is severely anti-climactic. But then, as Cave's tour de force collaboration with Kylie Minogue proved, this is an ongoing story. For now, "Bad Seed" stands worthy of the man, and that is some achievement.

Reviewed by Keith Cameron


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