Nick Cave (and the Bad Seeds)

An opening anecdote. In undergrad writing, my writing professor played us Johnny Cash’s cover of Nick Cave’s The Mercy Seat. Now, my Nick Cave period started that year—my sophomore year—and involved me completely covering my dorm room window’s in black paper and running a humidifier all the time and basically giving myself tropical diseases while drinking gallons of coffee and listening to nothing but Nick Cave. A friend of mine said he wasn’t surprised I was depressed. Anyway, my professor wanted the class to give observations on the song. I wrote about repetition in the lyrics (he’d never heard the Nick Cave version, something I hope he’s remedied—he introduced me to Macy Gray so Nick Cave is the least I can do for him). Nope. He just wanted us to recognize neither Nick Cave, who wrote the song, nor Johnny Cash, who covered the song, actually died in an electric chair (the subject of the song). In other words, it was fiction. I guess in undergrad, people stay a little too truthy with their fiction—something I had a real problem with earlier because someone told me Hal Hartley once said “write what you know… and no guns.” Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds just realized their sixteenth studio album, The Skeleton Tree, thirty-two years after their first album, From Her to Eternity. I got all the albums before that sophomore year of undergrad—so ten of them, which wasn’t cheap in those days. No Amazon.com, Best Buy. If I had to say the best Nick Cave album of the eighties? Tender Pray. Best of the nineties? Lots of choices, but The Boatman’s Call. The aughts? I don’t know, No More Shall We Part is amazing. But so’s Nocturama. And Skeleton Tree is amazing too; because Nick Cave (and the Bad Seeds) just seem to get better. I can’t think of any other band with a thirty-plus year career who I’d say that about. (Sorry, Bruce). And it’s not summer 2001 anymore… you can listen to Nick Cave on the streaming services for what we all paid for a single album in the olden days. Everyone should. Even if, as my wife puts it, Nick Cave looks like an anorexic vampire live.

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