Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 9th album, Murder Ballads, released on February 5th, 1996, (20th in the US), was a huge commercial success for the Australian crooner Nick Cave, who continues to accumulate accolades for each album he and his band release to this very day.
Starting his Berlin period with the Bad Seeds having enlisted Einstürzende Neubauten mastermind Blixa Bargeld on guitars—Cave evolved the chaos and insanity that The Birthday Party vomited out, but brought a bit more structure in his initially crazed compositions, before returning to a sounds closer to the tone of song “Shivers” Cave released via The Birthday Party’s first incarnation The Boys Next Door.
The result were albums like From Her To Eternity, The Firstborn Is Dead or Your Funeral… My Trial, some of the singer’s most iconic moments to date before he went on to create Hazlewood-esque crooning Pop, dark, eerie and extremely sublime—reaching its purest form on Let Love In, and its successor Murder Ballads from 1996.
With illustrious guests as Kylie Minogue and his back-then lover PJ Harvey, he delivered two of his finest duets ever. “Where The Wild Roses Grow”, a drastic description of the killing of a woman called Eliza Day, wrapped in sweetest sugary sounds, turned out to be a huge single hit, whereas “Henry Lee”, is not dealing with the biography of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas,, but based on the Scottish folk song “Young Hunting”.
PJ Harvey’s vocal contribution to the track ultimately added a bit of disturbing sweetness to a very bleak topic—which is par for the course with Nick Cave’s songwriting.
Speaking of folk songs, we would be remiss to not mention the vulgar rendition of “Stagger Lee” featured on the album, which has in recent years, inspired Cave to induce audience members on stage to join his congregation more so like a southern preacher than that of a slinky street poet toaster.
The album closes with pub room style featuring a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Death Is Not the End” rounding up Anita Lane, Shane MacGowan, PJ Harvey, and Kylie Minogue to join in the chorus that is a fitting end to a fantastic record.
Peaking high in various countries’ charts, Murder Balladsits easily is Nick Cave’s best-known album. While not necessarily reaching the emotionally disturbing depth of some of its predecessors, the record has a charm of its own as being one his most elegant pop moments—especially with “Where The Wild Roses Grow” which has become a classic track of the modern age.
We tip our hats to the noble Mr. Cave’s damn fine 9th album. Aging pretty well—just like the Cave-Man himself.