Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Renegade outsiders, 'The Birthday Party' hit London from Melbourne with a force that still resounds today. Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Rowland S. Howard, Tracy Pew and Phil Calvert blazed through incendiary live shows and a string of albums and EPs of swaggering, raw-boned blues that were at odds with the plastic pop of the early 80's.
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Following the group's breakup in 1983, Cave briefly sojourned in Los Angeles, writing a film script that would later manifest itself as the prison movie Ghosts … Of The Civil Dead, made with director John Hillcoat and director Evan English. He also assembled the first incarnation of The Bad Seeds. Mick Harvey remained from Birthday Party days. Blixa Bargeld, of Einsturzende Neubauten infamy, had appeared as guest guitarist on The Birthday Party track "Mutiny in Heaven," from their final Mutiny EP. Barry Adamson, who had guested on "Kiss Me Black" from The Birthday Party's seminal Junkyard LP, came from revered Manchester post-punks Magazine. Joined by Anita Lane, Edward Clayton Jones and Hugo Race, they released From Her to Eternity in 1984. The fusion of diverse talent was, if anything, more resourceful in constructing vivid musical backdrops to Cave's song narratives.
Relocated in Berlin, Cave started work on what was to become his debut novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel. The themes he was evoking in this work would fire the next Bad Seeds album, 1985's The First Born is Dead, in which Cave, Harvey, Bargeld and Adamson explored the myth-heavy terrain of Delta Blues. The epic single "Tupelo" based on Jogn Lee Hooker's song of the same name, encapsulated Cave's Elvis/Biblical fixation in one go, blending the birth of the King with Old Testament mythology.
Recruiting Die Haut's Thomas Wydler as drummer, the 1986 incarnation of The Bad Seeds selected a poignant set of covers for the Kicking the Pricks album, including Tim Rose's "Hey Joe," Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties," and the definitive rework of Gene Pitney's "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart." They swiftly followed this collection with the Your Funeral … My Trial LP. By this time, Barry Adamson had left the band, replaced by ex-Cramps/Gun Club man, Kid Congo Powers, while the lineup expanded with Roland Wolf on keyboards.
This incarnation delivered 1988's Tender Prey, with its condemned-man drama "The Mercy Seat" the most outstanding single. That year also saw the publication of Cave's book, King Ink, a collection of lyrics and plays, and the band appeared in Wim Wender's film Wings of Desire, performing "The Carny" and "From Her to Eternity." Ghosts … Of the Civil Dead, with a score composed by Cave, Bargeld and Harvey and a central acting performance by Cave, gained its theatrical released, and the singer's film work took on another dimension when he appeared as rock star Freak Storm in Tom DiCillo's Johnny Suede.
Cave left West Berlin shortly before its fall in 1989. He moved to Sao Paulo. The Brazilian city was to have a direct effect on the mood of his songs; much of 1990's LP The Good Son was devoted to trying to capture the evasive feelings suggested by the Portuguese word saudade, meaning something like yearning or longing. 1990 also marked the publication of And the Ass Saw the Angel, a stunning literary success that won Time Out's Book of the Year Award.
The Bad Seeds were now to re-evolve again with the subsequent departure of Powers and Wolf. Bassist Martyn P. Casey (Formerly of The Triffids) and keyboards maestro Conway Savage entered the fold for 1992's Henry's Dream. The magnetizing effect of this new lineup was keenly felt on 1993's Live Seeds LP, which cast many of the Henry's Dream songs in a still more impressive setting.
The Bad Seeds' creativity continued to soar to ever-heightened peaks over their next three releases. 1994's imaginative feast, Let Love In, was produced by Tony Cohen, whose association with Cave dates back to The Birthday Party Days.
With Cave now based in London, The Bad Seeds' impetus continued apace. 1996's Murder Ballads was a culmination of Cave's longtime fascination with "the language of violence" and allowed for further bold experimentation in musical style. Collaborations with Kylie Minogue and PJ Harvey on the singles "Where the Wild Roses Grow" and "Henry Lee," respectively, led to mainstream chart success and The Bad Seeds widest exposure ever. This album also saw the addition of two new Bad Seeds: Warren Ellis, of Melbourne's The Dirty Three, added vibrant violin, and New York NoWave troubleshooter Jim Sclavunos pitched in atmospheric percussion.
Meanwhile, Cave, Harvey and Bargeld resumed their cinematic links with John Hillcoat, scoring his second feature film, 1996's To Have and To Hold. Cave's second anthology of lyrics and essays, King Ink II, was also published that year.
March 1997 saw the release of The Bad Seed's tenth studio album, The Boatman's Call. Cave's most intensely personal work to date, the music was pared down to a beautiful simplicity, evoking magical atmospheres, while the singer explored the themes of love, faith and loss in unflinching detail. Just as Murder Ballads piled on the visceral details with evident glee, so The Boatman's Call stripped away all the veils of pretense to the bone of the emotions it evoked. The contrast between the two albums say much about Cave and The Bad Seeds' continual quest for excellence and illumination, as well as displaying all the versatility of the most singular ensemble in contemporary music.
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