Nick Cave and his perpetual gloomy face released Murder Ballads back in 1996 with the Bad Seeds to great critical acclaim and even commercial success. To his dismay, he was even nominated for MTV Best Male Artist of the Year, although he was withdrawn at his own behest. Also featuring Kylie Minogue, PJ Harvey and Shane Macgowan, this release also boasts four bonus tracks and four videos. CD on Mute.
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8/10 The Doc 3rd June 2016
Cave wrote and recorded this album at more or less the same time as the soporific Boatman's Call, where he sounds like he's spent years chained to a piano with nothing but a bucket of smack for company, sitting there there beneath his big goth quiff, weeping over his doomed love affair with PJ Harvey.
That ballad-singing doom-monger is a stereotype you could easily level at Cave if you weren't familiar with all of his oeuvre, but this record - which is great fun from start to finish - showcases Cave's other side, the pantomime villain, the grinning, laughing, gibbering lunatic, howling at the moon, rubbing excrement all over his face and generally losing his shit entirely. It starts with the grim Goth plod of Song Of Joy - basically a Cave re-write of The Rime Of the Ancient Mariner in which a doctor relates to a stranger the tale of how his wife and kids were stabbed to death one night while he was out at work, but then it really kicks off with the hilariously twisted Stagger Lee, adapted from an old blues standard and featuring some truly outrageous lyrics. The two real centrepieces are the manic rockabilly of Curse Of Millhaven ("Since I was no bigger than a weevil they've been saying I was evil/that if bad was a boot then I'd fit it/that I'm a wicked young lady, but I've been trying hard lately/oh fuck it! I'm a monster - I admit it.....") and the epic, Robert Rodriguez shootout of O'Malley's Bar, by the end of which Cave's mania renders him virtually inarticulate ("With an ashtray big as a.....fucking.....really......big.....brick/I split his skull in half").
Don't come here expecting misery. If that's what you're after, check out the Boatman's Call and prepare to be bored stupid. There's murder, of course, bloody and gruesome and in huge doses, but Cave's oft-ignored sense of humour really shines through this one and if you're in the right mood you can pretty much piss yourself laughing from beginning to end. Definitely not his most serious work, and all the better for it. Excellent.
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