|1. Into My Arms|
|2. Lime Tree Arbour|
|3. People Aint No Good|
|4. Brompton Oratory|
|5. There Is A Kingdom|
|6. Are You The One That I'Ve Been Waiting For?|
|7. Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere|
|8. West Counrty Girl|
|9. Black Hair|
|10. Idiot Prayer|
|11. Far From Me|
|12. Green Eyes|
The opener is a modern-day classic. Into My Arms is a love song so perfect you wonder why any other composition of its kind bothers to go up against a ballad that all others should rightfully refer to as ‘Sir’. Cave opens his heart from the outset, the song beginning with the stunning line of "I don't believe in an interventionist God / But I know, darling, that you do". It’s such a gorgeous song that Peaches Geldof even has its lyrics tattooed on her (but don’t let that put you off). It’s also the only Bad Seeds tune you’re likely to hear at a wedding.
His brief dalliance with Polly Harvey, whom he became infatuated with after their Henry Lee duet on Murder Ballads, is referenced on Green Eyes, Black Hair and the more direct West Country Girl. Comparisons with Dylan and – more on the money – Leonard Cohen are no bad things either. The religious motifs of Brompton Oratory, an album highlight, and There Is a Kingdom lend an air of a man coming to terms with his place in the world, with subtle churchy murmurs over drum machines. The Bad Seeds themselves play a blinder, with gentle and sympathetic elegance throughout.
It’s an audacious task trying to pin down the core essentials in The Bad Seeds’ catalogue, as there’s so much of it, but The Boatman’s Call would be labelled a classic in anyone’s canon. No band on their 10th album should have much more to say, but taking this turn for the reflective helped reignite The Bad Seeds and further secured their legacy. It is, in short, brilliant.
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The music always reflects the lyrics; so here we have Cave's signature piano style acting as the backing for his affecting baritone vocals. The bass is strong, the drumming slow, the strings distant and mournful... each of the Bad Seeds bring a unique angle to the emotional make-up of the music that creates an even more resonant listening experience. The songs are all cut from the same cloth, but the deft musicianship of the band means that each track has it's own musical signature. So we have slow, melodic piano ballads like the sorrowful and deeply religious Into My Arms; up-tempo instrumentation work like Idiot Prayer; and beautiful, but sobering string based confessionals such as Lime Tree Arbour, and my personal favourite, People Ain't No Good.
Cave's lyrics have never been better, as he leaves behind the over the top narrative ramblings of the previous album, Murder Ballads, and instead infuses his words with a sense of gutter-trash poetry and haunting religious symbolism. Many of the compositions have a painful intimacy to them akin to Dylan's seminal Blood on the Tracks, in which we can actually feel the singer emotionally opening up to the listener in the hope that that one special person may be out there paying attention. It may lack the cultural relevance of Dylan's album, though it is AS hauntingly beautiful in it's ideals. Quite simply, this is a must.
So where did this simply stunning album come from? Is the man getting more sensitive with age? On this evidence it would certainly seem so. The gentle piano which sparks the album to life is as big a contrast to the content of 'Murder Ballads' as one could find. In fact, 'Into My Arms' is a truly fine, almost sickly sweet love song which, were it not for Nick Cave's howl and the 'smarter than the average bear' lyrics, could belong to Burt Bacharach.
Fear not. Cave has not become a complete softie. Though he has clearly found a muse of sorts this has not stopped him from seeing the dark side of love. The title 'People Just Ain't No Good' speaks for itself. Within love there are doubts and 'The Boatman Calls', as well as celebrating the joys it can bring, bears witness to the pain of it falling apart.
Some of the tracks, are better than others. 'Brompton Oratory' and 'There Is A Kingdom' don't stand out in the same way as 'Far From Me' and 'Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere' but that is not to say that they do not merit their place. As some of the very best albums do, 'The Boatman Calls' requires you to listen to everything, providing you with an emotional odyssey rather than a set of songs.
This is an essential album to anyone who appreciates genuinely heartbreaking songwriting. If you try it, you will be rewarded. And all this from the man who 'killed' Kylie Minogue.
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