Posts Tagged ‘Murder Ballads’

In some ways, Murder Ballads is the record, Nick Cave was waiting to make his entire career. Death and violence have always haunted his music, even when he wasn’t explicitly singing about the subject. He sings about nothing but death in the most gruesome, shocking fashion. Divided between originals and covers, the record is awash in both morbid humour and sobering horror, as the Bad Seeds provide an appropriate backdrop for the carnage, alternating between blues, country, and lounge-jazz.”

On Murder Ballads, he sings about nothing but death in the most gruesome, shocking fashion. Divided between originals and covers, the record is awash in both morbid humour and sobering horror, as the Bad Seeds provide an appropriate backdrop for the carnage, alternating between blues, country, and lounge-jazz. 

Nick Cave does have plenty of compositional talent though, and his baritone suits the sombre mood of the record superbly. To say that the album is only worth getting for its lyrics would definitely be selling it short. Cave’s vocals are superb, and he really gets into character as he spins his tales of death and murder. Instrumentally, the album is primarily driven by a standard outfit of piano, bass, drums and guitar, with the occasional inclusion of organs, horns, strings, accordions, gunshots and screams among other things. The songs are anything but standard rock n’ roll song, seemingly as much to traditional folk or blues songs as contemporary rock music. While the album may be extreme for some in places, there are some undeniably great songs. His duet with Kylie Minogue on ”Where the Wild Roses Grow” is a beautiful ballad, driven by a delicate string section, that most people can enjoy, and a definite highlight on the album. Nick Cave often uses female vocals to provide contrast to his sombre baritone. On ”Stagger Lee”, a slow, menacing song, driven by a muted guitar, a repeated bass riff, and the occasional ringing piano chord. Nick Cave sounds more menacing than ever, taking a traditional blues standard and turning into an extreme tale of violence, murder and rape. 

Opening the affair is “Song for Joy,” a tale from a father who has witnessed his family’s death at the hands of serial killer. It is the most disturbing number on the record, lacking any of the gallows humour that balances out the other songs. Cave’s duets with Kylie Minogue (“Where the Wild Roses Grow”) and PJ Harvey (“Henry Lee”) are intriguing, but the true tours de force of the album are “Stagger Lee” and “O’Malley’s Bar.” Working from an obscure, vulgar variation on “Stagger Lee,” Cave increases the sordidness of the song, making Stagger an utterly irredeemable character. The original “O’Malley’s Bar” is even stronger, as he spins a bizarrely funny epic of one man’s slaughter of an entire bar. During “O’Malley’s Bar,” Cave and the Bad Seeds are at the height of their powers and the performances rank among the best they have ever recorded.

“Henry Lee’ by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds featuring P.J Harvey. 

In some ways, Murder Ballads is the record, Nick Cave was waiting to make his entire career. Death and violence have always haunted his music, even when he wasn’t explicitly singing about the subject. He sings about nothing but death in the most gruesome, shocking fashion. Divided between originals and covers, the record is awash in both morbid humour and sobering horror, as the Bad Seeds provide an appropriate backdrop for the carnage, alternating between blues, country, and lounge-jazz.”

On Murder Ballads, he sings about nothing but death in the most gruesome, shocking fashion. Divided between originals and covers, the record is awash in both morbid humour and sobering horror, as the Bad Seeds provide an appropriate backdrop for the carnage, alternating between blues, country, and lounge-jazz. 

Opening the affair is “Song for Joy,” a tale from a father who has witnessed his family’s death at the hands of serial killer. It is the most disturbing number on the record, lacking any of the gallows humour that balances out the other songs. Cave’s duets with Kylie Minogue (“Where the Wild Roses Grow”) and PJ Harvey (“Henry Lee”) are intriguing, but the true tours de force of the album are “Stagger Lee” and “O’Malley’s Bar.” Working from an obscure, vulgar variation on “Stagger Lee,” Cave increases the sordidness of the song, making Stagger an utterly irredeemable character. The original “O’Malley’s Bar” is even stronger, as he spins a bizarrely funny epic of one man’s slaughter of an entire bar. During “O’Malley’s Bar,” Cave and the Bad Seeds are at the height of their powers and the performances rank among the best they have ever recorded.

After this harrowing epic you can let out a sigh of relief. The closer is gentle, comforting, cover of Bob Dylan’s “Death Is Not The End”, a welcome change but out-of-place at the same time. The verses are song by Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Shane MacGowan, Kylie Minogue, Thomas Wylder, Anita Lane and Blixa Bargeld taking turn. The album might have ended on a stronger note with “O’Malley’s”, but that is up to personal opinion.

Murder Ballads is the ninth studio album by the Australian group Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, released by the record company Mute Records in February 1996.