Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' new career spanning retrospective Lovely Creatures is a monolithic document of a monumental career in music. Covering the years from 1984 to 2014 (post-Birthday Party up to the Push the Sky Away LP) with no Birthday Party, no Grinderman, no soundtrack work or guest appearances, just straight Bad Seeds goodness. If you want an easily digestible guide, this probably isn't it: the deluxe edition contains 45 songs, a hardback book and a 2-hour DVD. If you have the time to spare this collection, the rewards are plenty.
The retrospective kicks off with a double header which more or less sum up the two distinct areas of the Bad Seeds' sound: From Her to Eternity is all bluster, with free jazz drums, dissonant guitars and a demonic Screamin' Jay Hawkins-esque vocal delivery. This is followed by In the Ghetto, a fairly faithful Elvis cover which highlights Cave's talents as a balladeer.
As one might expect from such a highly-regarded musician, the brilliant songs keep flowing, from those better known: People Ain't No Good, Where The Wild Roses Grow and Red Right Hand are all present and correct, as is Stagger Lee, a song worth the price of admission alone.
Other tunes worth a shout out include the slow and slinky Loverman, the nightmarish Tupelo, the gospel heavy There She Goes, My Beautiful World and the fantastic Come into My Sleep. All of these songs show a real depth and breadth to the song writing: there are so many highlights musically it's hard to single them out.
This collection also highlights what an amazingly twisted lyricist Cave is. The beat poetry of The Carny tells a story about a pair of dwarves burying a dead horse and only gets more upsetting from there. Scum features a stream of conscience rant not a million miles from Iggy Pop, with a line about shaking a man's hand being like 'shaking a hot, fat, oily bone'. Similar lyrical highlights include Papa Won't Leave You Henry and Up Jumped the Devil. Nobody does it like Nick Cave, this dude is scary when he wants to be. That isn't to say the lyrics in his ballads are poor, with a song like Into My Arms (1 of only about 6 songs in the collection whose lyrics don't pertain to unsavoury characters shooting each other in the face) showcase an idiosyncratic turn of phrase.
Arguably though, a best of doesn't need to be 45 tracks long and in places the sequencing suffers as all the long dirges tend to be lumped together, and all the lush piano ballads are kept away from these elsewhere leaving sections of the collection needing a serious injection of energy. Overall though, this is a monster of a career retrospective documenting a monster of a career.
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