NICK CAVE AND THE BAD
SEEDS NEW ALBUM: "Nocturama"
Released Date: 3rd of February 2003
The dramatic procession of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds enters a new phase
2003. The supremely crafted albums which came out towards the close of the
century, "Murder Ballads" and "The Boatman's Call", affirmed what many
known since the band formed out of the ashes of Australian legends The
Birthday Party in 1983: as an expressive force The Bad Seeds are entirely
a class of their own, and Cave is one of the few truly great, genuinely
maverick songwriters and performers of the present day.
As the millennium creaked round, there was a brief creative pause. The
softly enunciated, devotional love songs of 1997's "The Boatman's Call"
been widely recognised as a consummate achievement for Cave. 2001's "No
Shall We Part" found Cave's piano compositions placed within highly
settings, his songs of spiritual and emotional survival beautifully
embellished with string sections guided by long term collaborator Mick
Harvey and Warren Ellis.
Within "No More Shall We Part" there were, however, tell tale signs that
prowling, cathartic, extrovert side to The Bad Seeds, which had run
albums since their violent 1983 debut "From Her To Eternity" had not been
laid to rest. In 'Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow' and 'Oh My Lord' the
was beginning to groove. Any notion that it was no longer of interest to
exploit the combustible potential of musicians as vehement and skilful as
Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, Thomas Wydler, Martyn Casey, Conway Savage, Jim
Sclavunos and Warren Ellis is due to be knocked aside by the next stage in
the group's long march.
The twelfth Bad Seeds album "Nocturama" displays a renewed strength of
purpose within the band, and is marked by an immediacy of recording
technique and thematic diversity. The sessions took place in early 2002
the band decided to use free time on an Australian tour to try out new
compositions. They ended up learning and recording the album in a week.
"The idea was to take some of the preciousness about the making of the
record away, and possibly create records more like they did in the old
which was a faster turn around," says Cave. "The way I wrote this record
to get the musical idea down, and a set of lyrics, and then put it to one
side and start a new one. I didn't reflect on the songs again, or play
again. Once they were written, that was it. Whereas with the record before
"No More Shall We Part" - I'd arranged the whole thing before I went in,
which perhaps inhibits the band a little. If something's already complete
and all they have to do is play the parts, it doesn't give them much
breathing space, and with this record they had a lot more room to play".
An objective point of view was brought to bear on proceedings in the form
Nick Launay. The LA-based British producer had worked with Cave many years
before when he produced The Birthday Party's 1981 single 'Release The
and at the behest of Mick Harvey Launay agreed to record the sessions. The
band's sheer pleasure in playing together built on the intention to loosen
up the process saw "Nocturama" emerge with a rawness in both the driven
the gentle songs.
As ever with Cave there are too many tributaries flowing into his work
the history of song to allow for easy analysis. While admitting to the
influence of a handful of poets - Auden, Thomas Hardy amongst them - and
song writers - Dylan and Van Morrison - Cave is still clearly inventing
own traditions on "Nocturama". The mood swings are impressive, spanning
emotional surrender to venomous black humour. He engages with a wide range
of themes. There is a tender sunset song of hope; an elegant piano song of
longing; a yawing, dark violin waltz; a swaggering pledge of love; a
abominable tale; a sorrowful evocation of loss; a nostalgic meditation; a
fragrant love epiphany; and one final, lustful demonic epic.
"Nocturama" might well be the complete Cave and The Bad Seeds panorama.
"By writing I try to understand myself in some way," says Cave. "It's the
only way that I have really of understanding what I feel about things and
what I think about things"
Wishing to maintain the ambiguity and mystery in the songs Cave is
to extemporise on their content. At any rate some of the loveliest, most
compelling songs are the gentle ones like the opening 'Wonderful Life', or
the simple rendering of nostalgia 'There Is A Town', which require no
'Bring it On' sees the band hitting a bold, superfly noir groove. The song
benefits from an outstanding duetted vocal from Chris Bailey, formerly the
singer with Brisbane's glorious pre-punk nihilists The Saints. "He was in
Melbourne at the time and I called him up and he came and sang on 'Bring
On' - and he sang it beautifully. He lifted that song," says Cave. "He's a
wonderful singer". "The Saints were Godlike to me and my colleagues. It
extraordinary to go and see a band that were so anarchic and violent, with
singer that could actually sing"
'Dead Man in My Bed' follows immediately from 'Bring it On' and further
raises noise levels as Cave takes the perspective of a woman afflicted
a useless partner. "It's a song about marriage," says Cave. "But it's a
comic song, funny and dark".
The album's most spectacular song is saved until the end when The Bad
unleash the flaming jam 'Babe, I'm On Fire' demonstrating their mastery of
demonic relentlessness. At fifteen minutes it's an epic with 43 verses (or
more, as many didn't make the recorded version) in which a bizarre cast of
high and low characters testify to the burning lust of the singer. The
was played just once prior to recording. "It was just an idea that
steamrolled," says Cave. "It's the kind of song you write when you're not
writing a song".
Film director John Hillcoat, who worked with Cave on the prison movie
'Ghosts of the Civil Dead', came in to make videos for two songs from the
album. The single 'Bring it On' is accompanied by a performance video from
the band, assisted by semi-clad extras, shaking anatomy at the camera in
homage to American pop videos. "Johnny Hillcoat asked me what I wanted to
make a video about" says Cave; "I asked him 'What do videos look like on
these days?' and he said 'basically there's a lot of black girls wiggling
their asses at the camera'. So, I said yeah, well alright let's do that
Miscegenated emotions have been a part of the Cave cannon from the
beginning. The son of an English teacher and a librarian, he brought a
intelligence to the post-punk scene of the early '80s. Formed in Australia
but relocated to England, his pre-Bad Seeds band The Birthday Party were
apocalyptic expressionist challenge to the senses. When they split up in
Cave re-grouped with a set of fierce musicians willing and able to join
in the perversion and celebration of blues, folk and popular forms. The
first line up of The Bad Seeds included two members still in the band -
Blixa Bargeld from Einstürzende Neubauten and ex-Birthday Party guitarist
Over the next two decades the band of gentlemen gangstas would go through
many line-ups, with personnel living in diverse corners of the world, but
the standard of excellence would never dip. "From Her To Eternity", their
introductory album of menacing swamp songs, was released in 1984. Shortly
afterwards Cave moved to Berlin and began writing a first novel. In 1985
release of "The First Born Is Dead" saw Cave's then literary concerns -
Old Testament, Elvis, Delta blues - leaking into the album's themes.
"Your Funeral My Trial" kept up momentum, surfacing in 1986 and giving
to some of the haunted outsiders in Cave's head. Having met Wim Wenders in
Berlin, Cave and the band appeared in the director's 'Wings Of Desire' and
the 1987 prison movie 'Ghosts Of The Civil Dead' featured an acting
performance by Cave and a score by Cave, Bargeld and Harvey.
With the publication of his first book, the lyrics compendium King Ink,
the 1988 release of the yearning tour de force Seeds album "Tender Prey",
Cave's Berlin sojourn came to an end. In 1989 he moved to Sao Paulo in
Brazil where the album "The Good Son" was recorded in 1990. Cave's novel
'And the Ass Saw the Angel' was finally published in the same year to
critical acclaim, including selection as Time Out Book of the Year. It has
been translated to fourteen languages.
The new decade saw The Bad Seeds augment their line up, bringing in
Martyn Casey and keyboardist Conway Savage. 1992's vaulting "Henry's
benefited from the additions, and the '93 live album "Live Seeds" captured
the band as they mutated into one of the most powerful and authentic live
ensembles of all time. Visceral renderings of dark passions continued with
the lauded "Let Love In" in 1994.
Ironically, the band's most commercially successful album of the '90s,
"Murder Ballads", began life as a means of accommodating songs that were
"too long and too strange to put on a legitimate record'. An exercise in
mingling the comic and the horrific, the album's bloody narratives
a graphic rendition of the blues standard 'Stagger Lee' and a number of
collaborations. Australian chanteuse Kylie Minogue joined Cave on 'Where
Wild Roses Grow' and PJ Harvey sung with him on 'Henry Lee'. The spirited
end piece version of Dylan's 'Death Is Not The End' features verses by
Lane and The Pogues' Shane McGowan.
As the '90s drew to a close, the line up of the band had swollen to
New York percussion player Jim Sclavunos and Dirty Three violinist Warren
Ellis. The live incarnation of The Bad Seeds had reached frightening
of intensity. With the stripped down, personal songs of "The Boatman's
in '97, they proved themselves adept at the most relenting
as well as the most relentless.
As "Nocturama" is released Cave is already half way though writing the
album. The process of writing is continual for him, partly, he admits, to
avoid the frightening prospect of having to begin again after a pause. He
works to a regime, visiting an office and burdening his baby Steinway
with full ashtrays, as he draws down ideas and tussles with his muse.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds plan to speed up the pace at which they issue
albums. Remarkably for a band who have set such high standards, the best
be yet to come.
sent by Alexiel