LP1-A1 Get Ready For Love (5:05)
LP1-A2 Cannibal's Hymn (4:54)
LP1-A3 Hiding All Away (6:31)
LP1-A4 Messiah Ward (5:14)
LP1-B1 There She Goes, My Beautiful World (5:17)
LP1-B2 Nature Boy (4:54)
LP1-B3 Abattoir Blues (3:58)
LP1-B4 Let The Bells Ring (4:26)
LP1-B5 Fable Of The Brown Ape (2:45)
LP2-A1 The Lyre Of Orpheus (5:36)
LP2-A2 Breathless (3:13)
LP2-A3 Babe, You Turn Me On (4:21)
LP2-A4 Easy Money (6:43)
LP2-B1 Supernaturally (4:37)
LP2-B2 Spell (4:25)
LP2-B3 Carry Me (3:37)
LP2-B4 O Children (6:51)
It seems astonishing to me that one year after putting out the pretty-poor Nocturama, largely the same band, with exactly the same producer and approach to recording, can get back together and put out not one, but two albums that individually would be considered highlights of their career.
That this pair of albums was followed by Grinderman, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, the film The Proposition, other film-soundtrack work and appearances, and a second novel, is somewhere between breathtaking and nauseating. Maybe having 30 years experience has something to do with it, but after Nocturama most people were content to write Cave off as a creative force, and leave him trudging his back catalogue around a series of ever-decreasing venues.
I did say before "largely" the same band, because from the off you notice some important differences to the Bad Seeds sound. Firstly, and most noticeably, a gospel choir. Secondly, guitarist Blixa Bargeld has left, and Gallon Drunk organist James Johnston has joined. An even more subtle difference, and only remarked upon in more recent interviews given by Cave, is that this is when Warren Ellis stepped forward as a greater contributor to the Bad Seeds sound (Indeed, being the influence behind the title track of The Lyre of Orpheus).
One final point on the line-up - Jim Sclavunos is on drumming duties for Abattoir Blues, and Thomas Wydler on The Lyre of Orpheus:
"The drummers. We have two drummers. We have a really heavy drummer and a light, jazzy drummer. That's how we split it up . . . Once we realized that they actually played on fifty percent of the songs, it suddenly made sense."
(Nick speaking in a contemporaneous review from Rolling Stone, reproduced on Epitaph's site: http://www.epitaph.com/news/news/1757)
And so, Get Ready For Love! It functions as a rallying cry for the album, showcasing the new sound as well as a sharpened edge to Cave's lyrics. It's not that he's lost his religion, it's more that he can look at it wryly, and see where it doesn't work, and still urge you on to, "Praise him a little bit more". Whether this should be a Capital H Him is, I guess, the point of the song.The social criticism that lurks in the opening song recurs in Nature Boy, Abattoir Blues and Easy Money, but only on the middle of those three does the imagery jar with the enjoyment of the song - and that's only for me because he uses the word "frappacino". And I don't expect Nick Cave to use such language.
I hope this serves to highlight the kind of album this is - on the surface each song is well produced, well performed, and great to listen to. Then you can pick a single point made in the lyrics and new depths are opened. Sometimes those depths are sleazy, as in Cannibal's Hymn ("Lie back and let me unlock you"), and sometimes the sleaziness is not even that well hidden (see Babe You Turn Me On (lyrics here)). But it's always ribaldry rather than out-and-out rudeness.
Hiding All Away begins with a noise wrenched by Warren from violin plus effects, and builds slowly around a surprising funky bass line. Nick weaves absurd situations around this, where a woman is looking for him, or something else (love? faith?), and the gospel choir struggle to keep up (or keep a straight face). The end of the track is puzzling:
Some of us we hide away
Some of us we don't
Some will live to love another day
And some of us won't
But we all know there is a law
And that law, it is love
And we all know there's a war coming
Coming from above
There is a war coming
There is a war coming
What is undoubtable is the force with which the song takes you to this end, and how drained you feel after it.
There She Goes, My Beautiful World opens the second side and is again, on the one hand, a pop song about love. But skim the surface and it's about losing your muse, your talent, how other people have dealt with that historically, and that and artist can have all the ambitions he or she wants, but still needs to put the effort in. And then, for all the debate on what this song means, the last comment on songmeanings.net is the most telling: "this song makes me want to DANCE!"
I don't want to spend the whole review picking each song apart, partly because each time I listen to these records something new jumps out, but mostly because if I tried I'd never finish. Plus, I think the fun of the album is doing some of that yourself. Then there are cases that I've read something new about a song in my research, and then I want to go back and listen to it again with that knowledge in mind. For example I didn't know that Fable Of The Brown Ape was meant to be about Blixa's departure, or that Let The Bells Ring was about Johnny Cash.
I will just take one more example though. O Children takes some of the form of slower gospel songs - the "rejoice" refrain for example, "lift up your voice" - and applies them to an apology from a dying older generation to the younger generation for the terrible world they've been left with, the children. One the one level you can let the song wash over you as another accomplished number on a great double album, or you can choose to pay a bit more attention and be rewarded by a more moving experience.