Top 10 Nick Cave Album 2019 | Most Ranked Album
From his formative years leading the often-chaotic band the Birthday Party, through the timeless albums made with the Bad Seeds, Cave’s has continued to evolve, sharpen, change and redefine his style.
Over the trek of albums with the Boys Next Door, the Birthday Party, the Bad Seeds and Grinderman, Cave has proved to be consistently engaging. Unlike many lists that rank “worst to best,” Nick Cave stand with a select few who really have no “worst.”
Even on an off day, year or album, he has been able to summon up something of interest. At worst, you could say some are lesser versions of greater works, but they’re all still very listenable.
The recorded side of Nick Cave only tells part of the story. The man is an author, film-maker, actor and perhaps above all else, a dynamic live performer.
Cave has always stayed true to himself and his vision, even if that vision changed or wobbled along the way. It’s safe to say that Nick Cave has had one of the most solid and consistent catalogs of any artist of his generation, and beyond. Though up for debate, we present to you our take on Nick Cave’s recorded works.
10. Jubilee Street
It’s a unique type of band who can make one of their strongest albums after nigh-on 30 years and 14 previous records, but the Bad Seeds have always been several pages ahead of their currents, leaving others to imitate their dog-eared old chapters while they focus on renewing things up.
The centerpiece, Jubilee Street, displays a band who are more content with their craft than ever before, despite the exit of founder member Mick Harvey.
It glowers and glimmers, with Warren Ellis’s ethereal violin line soaring and screeching like a funeral march. Cave’s never had much sympathy for the spoilt scoundrels who slime over his songs, but there’s a new empathy in his voice for the down-on-her-luck prostitute who’s been terrorized and tortured by gangsters and drugs: it quivers as he hopes for a new start and sings: “I am beyond recriminations … I’m transforming, I’m vibrating,” as the score shudders towards some higher plane of being
9. Dig!!!! Lazarus Dig!!!:
On the rampage just a year after Grinderman’s 2007 self-titled debut, there’s a strut to the album Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! that Cave and his men did not plunder for yonks: a boldness and bawdiness missing from their downbeat mid-00s period.
And so while We beckon on the Author questioning of a god who can’t be arsed to busy himself with the world’s problems – is questionably the best song on the album, there’s something so shriekingly camp about the title track that it feels like the most important, a shot of daft, amusing testosterone that perked up a band in danger of becoming too stern. 8. Into My Arms:
It is a torch song, but that phrase cooks up unhelpfully soppy connotations of Bon Iver sitting in his cabin mooning over lost love, of Chris Martin bleating hazily about failed relationships, of faceless singer-songwriters whining about where it all went wrong.
8. Henry Lee
Go, now, and see the video for Henry Lee and you can observe the first sparks of something unique starting to catch light: a link between a pair of reckless souls who put so much of themselves in their own art it’s enough to make you fidget.
PJ Harvey and Cave have shared an eerily related career path – two artists who both clung to abrasive, aggressive noise to start with, unsure how else to express themselves, before becoming more different, more mellow and more practical over time – and after this, they’d begin a damned relationship that ended in disordered heartbreak.
And yet here they tread a nervy line between awkwardness and closeness: The song is a revamped version of the folk song Young Hunting, and the alchemy is fixed into the recording too: a gentle, stunning piano ballad that feels like it belongs to a dusty old saloon in old America, two singers cooing at one another like the ghosts of Bonnie and Clyde. A dark duet of regret and accusation between two kindred spirits.
Loverman feels the most troubling. Unlike The Ship Song, it’s lust rather than love that’s fogged up the senses, and Cave howls and groans like he’s been obsessed by Twin Peaks’ BOB, taken over by an evil spirit and creeping and crawling like a sex-sick devil.
6. Stagger Lee
Cover versions have always held a unique place in Bad Seeds lore. Over the years they’ve twisted old songs by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Pulp and Leadbelly into new shapes, and there’s an argument that the most relevant work in there before time canon is 1986’s covers-only album Kicking Against the Pricks.
If there is just one iconic Bad Seeds cover, though, it’s Stagger Lee, an obscene take on an old American folk song that details the grisly slaying of Billy Lyons by “Stag” Lee Shelton in 1895.
There’s an irksome affinity to revere Cave as a pure misanthrope, a stern high priest of gloom, but he’s often at his best when he’s actually having fun, and Stagger Lee is one of his guiltiest thrills: guitars slither and strike like coiled rattlesnakes while he purrs obscenity after obscenity, rolling around in the filth of nasty sex, unrestrained killing, and man-on-man fellatio and having a depraved ball.
5. The Ship Song
It’s an awkward blighter, the Bad Seeds’ 1990 album The Good Son, and it kicked up a fair old stink among Cave followers upon its release.
How could the snarling, derogatory preacher of despair and dismay turn soft and over-romantic? Why would he turn his back on blood-and-guts wails of noise for affectionate ballads and dark-hearted pop? In retrospection, though, it’s a school of thought purely for the dimwits unable to realize there’s a delicate beauty to the Bad Seeds that is just as powerful as the hellfire-and-brimstone melodrama.
4. The Mercy Seat
One of the secrets of the Bad Seeds’ success is how fluid their partnership is. 15 musicians have, at some point, made up part of the ever-changing lineup, to refresh up their sound with new ideas, fresh tics, and weirder kicks. For their fifth album, Tender Prey, they got in Kid Congo Powers (formerly of the Cramps and the Gun Club) and multi-instrumentalist Roland Wolf to help push the Bad Seeds’ sound into bolder territory.
The Mercy Seat sounds truly sick: diseased and malformed, with shuddering strings and a stark, serpent-like piano line from Mick Harvey that tries to wind and slither out of the noise-rush.
Cave has never been satisfied with mere suffering or misery: he’s a songwriter who wants to turn calamity into something ghastlier and grander, a detective forever on the search for ideas and signs that the end is nigh and Doomsday is upon us.
Tupelo takes the tale of Elvis Presley’s birth – an odd night in which Mississippi was hit by a stifling flood and his older twin brother, Jesse Garon, was conceived stillborn 35 minutes before – and remains it as an apocalyptic warning. “A gigantic black cloud come,” snarls Cave as thunder crashes, lightning flashes and rain falls, but it’s the otherworldly dread that makes Tupelo into something far more threatening than inclement weather.
It’s the thought that something monstrous is stirring; that someone – or something – is about to be born that’s so terrible it’s causing nature to protest and the elements to rebellion. Just like WB Yeats’s
2. The Second Coming
The Second Coming imagined the birth of a ruthless beast that would bring anarchy to the world, so baby Elvis becomes a terrible force making its presence well-known. “Why the hen will not lay any eggs / Can’t get that cock to crow / The nag is spooked and crazy,” sings Cave over a vamping, biblical din, before hinting at a darker terror: the fate of Jesse Garon, the baby who never was and an reluctant sacrifice because nothing could live the arrival of Elvis.
1. The Birthday Party
The Birthday Party as an unholy force of evil noise, but by 1983 Nick Cave had grown tired of their mess and muck. Tired from the drug-related bickering and strangled by his relationship with guitarist Rowland S Howard, he and drummer Mick Harvey fled to start afresh and formed the Bad Seeds’ first fixed schedule with ex-Magazine bassist Barry Adamson, guitarist Hugo Race, and Einstürzende Neubauten’s Blixa Bargeld.
It was Bargeld who possed the key to Cave’s freedom: a divine savior concealed as a haughty oddball with a keenness for making music with ear-splitting electronic drills, and accountable for a bleaker sound than the Birthday Party’s abrasive racket.
It’s his shrieking, discordant clink that underpins Saint Huck, the first song the Bad Seeds recorded together, as Cave hams it up like a crazed preacher in the throes of zealous rapture.
Mark Twain’s loved Huckleberry Finn is changed from innocent do-gooder into devilish ne’er-do-well, a lost soul who leaves the path of righteousness and finds himself wading through the foul-smelling, sinful slough of the “dirty old’ man latrine” instead until a bullet is stuck in his brain.
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