Nick Cave has 16 albums under his belt with The Bad Seeds since they released their debut in 1984. On average, that works out at a fairly prolific rate of one every two years. There’s a real wealth of quality in their many, many songs – but what are the ten most essential noir-flecked tracks? Take a look at our pick below…
10 ‘Into My Arms’ (1997)
A wedding aisle favourite – if it didn’t open with the unequivocal line “I don’t believe in an interventionist God”, which tends to get most vicars’ cassocks in a twist – the opening track from ‘The Boatman’s Call’ found Cave refining his piano balladry to subtle, ornate perfection as he acceded to his partner’s theological views in the name of pure, redemptive love: “I don’t believe in the existence of angels, but looking at you I wonder if that’s true”. Middle Eastern extremists take note: religious disagreement can sound like the most beautiful music ever made.
9 ‘Nobody’s Baby Now’ (1994)
Few singers have made the transition from bawling swamp punk devil to devastating piano torch singer, but Cave made it look as easy as shaming a pig-teabagging Tory twat. Written for Johnny Cash but kept for the Bad Seeds, ‘Nobody’s Baby Now’ captured the lingering, forlorn memories of a romance that proved too slippery.
8 ‘Red Right Hand’ (1994)
CLANG!!! The gothic western funeral bell heralded the arrival of seductive Old Nick, all black coat and hidden claw, conjuring his “catastrophic plan” for humankind over a voodoo skulk as ominous and full of threat as a demonic decree. Scream actually made it less scary.
7 ‘Straight To You’
The anthemic fulcrum of ‘Henry’s Dream’, ‘Straight To You’ was an organ-led country power ballad of devotion in a time of great upheaval. For a glorified ‘Dark End Of The Street’, Cave sure made it sound like an epic fantasy adventure, with its crumbling ivory towers, colliding chariots of angels and sea-swallowed mountains – metaphors for societal and environmental collapse.
6 ‘The Mercy Seat’ (1988)
The electric chair execution you can rock out to, ‘The Mercy Seat’ was Cave at his most ferocious, ranting and boot-stomping his way through a death row fryer’s last moments. By the end you can almost smell scorched skin.
5 ‘The Ship Song’ (1990)
Virtually a southern soul lullaby, ‘The Ship Song’ was the elegant counterpoint to ‘The Good Son’’s livelier ‘The Weeping Song’, so saccharine it came with a video featuring kiddies playing xylophones in the snow.
4 ‘Do You Love Me?’ (1994)
If you ever made the fatal error of shagging the demon from ‘Red Right Hand’, ‘Do You Love Me?’ is the sort of obsessive stalker text you’d get for months afterwards. Seditious organ shivers, murderous reverb and Nick, tortured and tormented, pleading for love from a bracelet-festooned beauty. Too needy, Nick.
3 ‘Henry Lee’ (1996)
Given an added sexual frisson, lacking from his Kylie duet ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’, by the relationship blooming between himself and guest Polly Harvey – try watching the video without thinking ‘get a crypt, you two’ – ‘Henry Lee’ was the suave highlight of 1996’s ‘Murder Ballads’.
2 ‘Stagger Lee (1996)
Not until ‘Pig’s Mouth Strikes Again’ would there be a more evil protagonist in song. The titular Stagger Lee thought nothing of forcing prostitute’s husbands to fellate him at gunpoint, then shooting them anyway. Cave’s most iconic monster.
1 ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’ (2004)
The stand-out from the rock half of the ‘Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus’ two-parter, ‘There She Goes…’ was 21st Century Cave at his best, leading a gospel choir in a passionate pop noir.