How I Became a Nick Cave Fan

How many times have I looked back upon my music collection and asked: Why didn't I start listening to "insert artist here" a long time ago? It happens far more often than I'd like to admit as I'm sure I've mentioned it on the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll multiple times already, but it all works out in the long run. I may be left wondering what took me so long, but at least I get to it eventually. I guess that's one of the hazards of listening to so many different musicians, especially the constant stream of new ones. It might take me longer to get to a particular artist, and even if I do, it might take a while for it to sink in and really take hold.

When I first stumbled upon Grinderman earlier this year and had those songs worm their way into my brain, I barely even knew who their front man Nick Cave was. His was a name that I had heard mentioned briefly in passing over the years, but I never thought much about it other than that. Then I got into Grinderman and I decided to write something about their music. Suddenly I learned all this back story about Nick Cave, his work with The Birthday Party and then with the Bad Seeds, but I still wasn't compelled to really look into any of those past bands to see what they were all about.

Looking back on it now, it's actually pretty stupid sounding seeing as how normally I like to check out all of the influences of bands I really get into as soon as I can in an effort to see what inspired them and where they came from, but not with Grinderman. I'll blame the various reviews I read about this band, most of which were written by reviewers who new more about Cave's past works than I did and continually discussed how this project differed from his music with the Seeds. Now reviews are always subjective so they could have been wrong, but I took them at their word and didn't really think anything of it.

So what spurred me on to finally check out an album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds just last week?

I guess curiosity got the better of me while I was listening to Grinderman. I really like the word play and structures of those songs and thought some of that must also be present in the work of the Bad Seeds, seeing the primary song writer is Cave in both cases. It took one song... the first song from the album Let Love In actually... and then I was a Nick Cave fan, without a doubt.

There is definitely a difference between Cave's work with the Bad Seeds and his more recent band, even though both projects involve some of the same people, but I don't think it was as drastic as I might have first though. While the Seeds are more sweeping songs, dark, even borderline gothic at times, often with thick layered arrangements, and Grinderman is more like rough, fuzzy primal rock and roll, there is something common and uniquely striking about both body's of work.

I think it is the overall feeling of any particular song. They're emotional, but in a way that is far more visceral and authentic than the term "emotional" implies. Both sets of songs do have a dark edge both to the lyrics and the music, an edge that deals with some of the more primal emotions and aspects of humanity like love, murder, fear, desire, religion and death. That isn't to say that either band sounds depressing or overly morbid though, oddly enough seeing as how some of Cave's works with the Seeds deal with quite morbid topics very directly. No, instead, I see Cave's writing as relating to something very authentic and part of every human being whether we want to admit it or not. It's a touch of the dark side that we all have, but presented filtered through the blues, maybe a touch of cynicism and a little dark humor. The result though is some very compelling songwriting both with the Bad Seeds and now with Grinderman and seems consistent in one form or another no matter which musical format it is presented in. I guess that's why Nick Cave is something of a cult rock and roll icon in the post punk and more underground scenes.

As for the comparisons between the Bad Seeds and Grinderman, the musical differences are obvious on the first listen. To my ear though, the latter of the two still sounds like a logical song writing progression for Cave and so I wouldn't call it as much of a deviation as might have been implied by some reviews. It's a progression that started with some frustration and anger and has sort of shifted towards a wider range of emotions but maintained the same passion, intensity and authenticity just in different flavors. The resulting music ranges from sort of post punk art rock with dark, even sinister tones, to soaring rock numbers, to the proto punk blues rock of today.

Overall, I think a lot of people might end up being Nick Cave fans as well, and not just Grinderman fans or Bad Seed fans. If you're a fan of either and have yet to check out the other or have dismissed it for whatever reason, take another listen as you might find that although the music has changed, the song writing is still in the same vein I think Cave has quite a unique style that is passionate and powerful, and that is how and why I became a Nick Cave fan.

If you're interested in checking out the music of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, I recommend Let Love In and the last double studio album released before he formed Grinderman: Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus as they're two of my favorites. There's also a few other stand out albums from across his career with the Seeds, and really all of them are pretty good, but the earlier stuff is a little bit darker than his later works... still great though and interesting to listen to.

If you're interested in Grinderman, check out my original review of the band here as it has links to their sites as well: The Grinderman: Nick Cave Makes Some of the Most Visceral Rock and Roll to Date


- The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll is a division of Fifth Column Media - -