Release Date: May 5, 2017
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Post-Punk
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have led a career filled with stories. In addition to the coming and going of band members--whose own personalities and sounds have embellished their legacy with filmic significance--the Bad Seeds' albums are often received more like literary works than rock'n'roll records: studied and revered for their symbolism, characters, and plot twists. The same thing that makes it difficult for the band to represent themselves with a standard "Best Of" collection also makes it difficult for newcomers to approach their work.
Nick Cave is a singular figure in contemporary rock music; he first emerged as punk rock was making its presence known in Australia, but though he's never surrendered his status as a provocateur and a musical outlaw, he quickly abandoned the simplicity of punk for something grander and more literate, though no less punishing in its outlook. Cave also had an approach to collaboration that made his backing band, the Bad Seeds, an integral part of his creative vision, even as their membership changed and their sound evolved over the space of three decades of fury and eloquence. In Kirk Lake's liner notes to Lovely Creatures: The Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, 1984-2014, he celebrates the band as much as their charismatic leader and songwriter, and the 45 songs collected on this three-disc set make the case that while Cave may be the frontman -- and a profoundly charismatic one with a powerful voice that can communicate from a whisper to a scream -- his musicians bring a color, shape, and texture to his songs that focus and amplify his gifts as a singer and lyricist.
Compiling a best of collection is a tall task for any band. Doing so for a band with an eclectic and shapeshifting sound that has endured through three decades is nearly impossible. This could explain why Lovely Creatures is being released in four varieties (double CD, triple vinyl, Deluxe 3CD & DVD, Limited Edition Super Deluxe with hardcover book).
The saga of Nick Cave didn't begin with the Bad Seeds or the Birthday Party-not even with the man himself. Its genesis lies instead in the first chapter of Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita , which Cave's father, a high school English teacher, read aloud to him shortly after his 12th birthday inside their house in a small town in Victoria, Australia. Cave later recalled his father transforming with every recited syllable, a mortal under the spell of the written word.
For 30-plus years Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds have existed in their own dark dimension. A living, evolving embodiment of the southern gothic legend, a cult western horror flick made hypnotic, heel-stomping flesh, they inhabited and documented a dusty lost world where the rain fell black on murderers and preachermen alike; of merciless Gods, mischievous devils and electric chair confessions; of liars, lovers, philanderers, angels, thieves and at least one red-handed Beelzebub foiling the fates of men. If you're playing the Nick Cave Review Drinking Game and you're already hammered, it's merely testament to the power, vividness and cohesion of the world Cave and his coven of suave sadists have conjured.
30 years eh? Turns out you can fit a fair whack of shit-kicking filth, trembling paeans, spooked voodoo, gnarled crooners and bloody-fanged doom-polkas into three decades. Or you can if you're Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Here we have a band-picked best of that emphasises Cave's songwriting prowess, appetite for reinvention, and how his supporting cast have simultaneously acted as perfect foils and inspiration for each phase of his career.
So much has happened since 1998, when Mute Records released The Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- which for many years was honestly the only "desert island disc" any reasonable person would need for entertainment and solace after being left alone to die of the elements. The band have recorded six more critically acclaimed albums, for a start. Original members Mick Harvey and Blixa Bargeld have left.
Reviewing a 'Best Of' or 'Greatest Hits' is always a tricky affair. For the most part even the most run of the mill outfit can clobber together enough memorable tunes from their oeuvre to make an emotive connection, or cause involuntary muscle spasm. No, the art of the 'Greatest Hits' is in its assembly and presentation, the latter of increased importance in this digitalised age.