Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Lovely Creatures (The Best of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 1984 – 2014) – review
LP/CD/DL + VARIOUS SPECIAL EDITIONS
Lovely Creatures is the most comprehensive overview of the recorded work of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds to date. Spanning thirty years of music from their debut album From Her To Eternity through to Push The Sky Away their 15th studio album, the collection navigates one of the most exhilarating, idiosyncratic and inventive bodies of work created in contemporary music. Simon Tucker reviews:
There are a few artists whose back catalogue can be a daunting or even intimidating prospect. A catalogue so vast and varied it is hard where to find an ‘in’. The type of catalogue where if you were to ask various people what album to start with you will be given a different answer each time (see Dylan, Waits, The Fall etc). Thankfully, for decades now record companies have been providing us listeners with “Greatest Hits” compilations, however, many a just a cash in to get that one last pay-day from an artist before they move to a different label, or even to exact some kind of misguided ‘revenge’ on said artist. Thankfully, we also get the type of “best of” where the artists themselves are involved and labels who actually care about the artist and want to give the public a true testament as to why this catalogue is to be celebrated. Lovely Creatures falls squarely in the latter camp as it has been compiled by Cave himself plus original Bad Seed member Mick Harvey and the present incarnation of the band, this is as definitive a collection one could wish for and a perfect entry point for the curious or purchase for the already converted.
Available in various formats* Lovely Creatures is a chronological trip through some of the most thrilling and visceral music ever created which makes the case for Cave and his team (make no mistake The Bad Seeds are far more than mere sidemen for their frontman. Each one brings their character and ideas to the table helping the sound morph and twist into various shapes throughout the years).
Formed after the fractious break up of the goth-blood ripped rock n fucking roll band The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds was where Cave threw off any constraints (however incredible The Birthday Party were they were still firmly rooted in the limitations of ol’ fashioned rock) he felt. Now he was free to roam wherever he wished, absorbing influences from all manner of places and utilizing the skills of his new gang.
Starting with From Her To Eternity and finishing with the meditative beauty of Push The Sky Away, Lovely Creatures displays a lyricist who seeped himself in vodka, heroin, literature and art and who spewed forth tales cinematic in imagery and rich with character detail. Cave’s lyrics are some of the most vivid in modern culture and his turn of phrase shines throughout whether that be (the surprise hit) Where The Wild Roses Grow “and I lent down and planted a rose between her teeth” or Jubilee Street’s “foetus on a leash” his skill with the English language is superior to many working in the form. He is a storyteller of the highest order, bringing imaginary tales from history (some based on true stories) to life like a film director. You are IN these worlds when you listen to the songs and the present dissapears away. You are IN the ’32 when Stagger Lee puts four holes in the barkeeper’s mother fucking head. You are IN that dreaded electric chair of The Mercy Seat.
It’s not just Cave’s words that help bring these images to life however. It is the sonic canvas that the various Bad Seeds provide. Without the Bad Seeds by his side you get the feeling Cave may have just stuck to novels and film scripts as a career choice. The Bad Seeds give him the confidence to explore these subjects. They inspire and direct him. From the days of Mick Harvey to the inspired inclusion of Blixa Bargeld, who simultaneously helmed Einsturzende Neubaten, and Warren Ellis, Cave has always had a skill for finding musicians from all over the world who will not be there as hired hands instead they will serve as co-conspirators, instigators and driving forces.
As Lovely Creatures progresses you notice the change in the musical direction as Cave got sober and heads into a more compact and restrained style of songwriting. The wildness from the earlier days is replaced by a more direct narrative and delivery. There are still flashes of the past that appear of course (Dig, Lazaruz, Dig being a case in point) but by the time we arrive at Push The Sky Away wild sonics are replaced with heavily textured and nuanced ‘classic’ style (this is another reason a compilation like this serves a great service as there are many who are not fans of latter day Cave and prefer the early wildness yet there are some who prefer what the band have morphed into).
Throughout Lovely Creatures it becomes apparent what a master of the love song Cave and the Bad Seeds are. Of course this being them it isn’t no love me do or hand me your pillow kind of affair more songs that are romantic yet damaged, beautiful but sometimes unnerving. Into My Arms has become a wedding first dance classic over the years and the gospel-like anthemic There She Goes My Beautiful Mind is a tale of broken people and of twisted psyche yet it is delivered in such a joyous style that you are cheering and hollering to a song that is basically a song about mental illness. Oh and the wonderful Nature Boy still has the power to light up many a dark night.
Lovely Creatures is a perfect place for the uninitiated, the curious or the die-hard fan. It is a collection that serves as a celebration of one of the most unique, progressive, singular and intelligent outfits working in modern popular culture. Dig in and be rewarded.
*I was given the DL 3-disc version to review so can’t comment on the booklet etc that comes with the deluxe editions but there are a whole hosts of reviews out proclaiming how great it is so listen to them and buy it.