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Murder Ballads

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Murder Ballads + Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! + The Boatman's Call
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Product details

  • Audio CD (5 Feb. 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: EMI
  • ASIN: B000026ZHQ
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,052 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Song of Joy
2. Stagger Lee
3. Henry Lee
4. Lovely Creature
5. Where The Wild Roses Grow
6. Curse of Millhaven
7. Kindness of Strangers
8. Crow Jane
9. O'Malley's Bar
10. Death Is Not The End

Product Description

BBC Review

Following on from Mute’s 2010 reissuing of expanded, audiophile-pleasing, remastered (5.1 and stereo) versions of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Tender Prey, The Good Son and Henry’s Dream, the label is giving the band’s remaining 90s albums the same treatment. So alongside this fantastic new presentation of 1996’s blood-splashed Murder Ballads, fans can pick up new editions of 1994’s Let Love In and 97’s exquisite The Boatman’s Call, as well as 2001’s underrated (and post-best of) No More Shall We Part. Things could get expensive, quickly.

Naturally, these releases are aimed at newcomers as much as they are long-standing admirers of Cave et al – the extras will appeal to the latter group, but all four albums are worth the time of an absolute beginner. Murder Ballads makes for a testing starting point though, as the frontman and his cohorts deliver an uncompromised vision of savage violence, presented in such detail that the squeamish are advised to skip to its heavy-hearted but PG-rated follow-up. But The Bad Seeds have always been about drama, about death and lust; about messing around with people that aren’t to be messed around with, chasing skirt that will only lead a man to madness. So why not take the plunge? Murder Ballads represents the very darkest depths of the band’s 90s output.

Two tracks from this set appear on the group’s 1998 best-of, and both are duets. The first, Henry Lee, features Cave’s ex-partner PJ Harvey – their break-up would inspire a number of songs on The Boatman’s Call. The second is Cave’s biggest UK hit single to date: Where the Wild Roses Grow, featuring Kylie Minogue. The pint-sized star’s presence does go some way towards explaining the song’s commercial success; but its video, included here, also played a significant part. A striking work inspired by John Everett Millais’ 1852 painting Ophelia, it sees Cave’s character lay Minogue’s to rest in a shallow pond after killing her with a rock (unsurprisingly, that part of the story isn’t shown). It’s a piece of pop history which retains its haunting quality to this day.

And there’s plenty more brilliance where those two came from. Stagger Lee is one of the finest foul-mouthed songs ever committed to tape, a swaggering tale of prostitutes and pistols, muddy roads and bloody murder – don’t listen to it in the car when taking your mum shopping. O’Malley’s Bar is novel-like in its detail of a furious killing spree. It’s an endurance test at over 14 minutes long, but not a second is wasted, Cave rambling with glee as the song’s antagonist sets about his wicked work. Opener Song of Joy is an unsettling curtain-up – it’s never completely clear whether the John Milton-quoting narrator has killed his own children or, in fact, he’s fleeing a similar fate.

The title says it all, really: Murder Ballads. You get just that and, given the musicians at work, everything’s expectedly brilliant. The extras, including talking-head contributions from St Vincent’s Annie Clark, photographer Steve Gullick and BBC Music reviewer Luke Turner (among various Bad Seeds, musicians and critics), are simply the sweetest icing on a deliciously crimson cake.

--Mike Diver

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. B. J. Roberts on 16 Oct. 2003
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A collection of songs dealing with serial killings, mass murder and random crimes of passion might seem an odd subject for an album and in some ways, you'd be right to think that. But then again, this is Nick Cave.
I find listening to this album to be quite unsettling, but at the same time blackly comic and almost uplifting. I can't think of another artist who could even hope to pull off this quite amazing feat. From the very morbid "Song of Joy" opening, through the exceptionally foul mouthed "Stagger Lee" and finishing on a re-orked version of "Death is not the end," (featuring guest vocals from the likes of Shane McGowan, Kylie Minogue and PJ Harvey) you can't help but be taken aback by it all.
The highlight of the album for me is "Where the Wild Roses grow," which is a duet with Kylie Minogue, (The best song she'll ever do) her voice providing a nice contrast with Cave's own haunting vocals.
This is not Cave's finest work, but it is certainly one of his bravest and though it might not be the first Cd you reach for, it deserves it's place on your shelf alongside all the other Nick Cave albums.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "roaringlooney" on 15 Jan. 2003
Format: Audio CD
I actually love this album, but have to say it is an acquired taste. It focuses on, as the title suggests, murders. It is quite morbid and could be described as shocking. The content is sometimes explicit and there is a small amount of bad language....but what do you expect with a title like "The Murder Ballads"? I think this this is a great album and even find myself singing along. If you like Nick Cave, buy it. If you have a slightly warped mind, buy it. If you are rather morbid or have a fascination with murder, buy it. If you have an open mind and are prepared to encounter something new, buy it. On the whole I think everyone should buy it, if for nothing else, than to be impressed that Nick Cave managed, to a) come up with the idea in the first place, b) put the subject matter into lyrics and to music, and c) get away with it.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Bassett on 30 April 2003
Format: Audio CD
Personally I think that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have been the most consistently under appreciated artists of the last decade. Cave has constantly released utterly amazing LPs and yet receives little praise from the record buying public. The fact that he sounds more like a mortician than a pop star belies the fact that he is possibly the finest songwriter to have ever walked the earth. ‘Murder Ballads’ is Cave’s ninth album and his first stab at something resembling a concept LP.
Don’t let the ‘concept album’ tag put you off though. For this is not a series of odd beeps and thuds. It is certainly the best example of poetry set to music of the last decade. Death might sound like a boring premise; but a subject as broad could never be dull in the hands of someone as talented as Cave. From sad tales (‘Kindness of Strangers’) to the macabre ‘Song Of Joy’ to the downright grotesque ‘Stagger Lee’ the listener is treated to the different faces of The Bad Seeds on this ‘Murder Ballads’.
The opener, ‘Song Of Joy’ is quite unlike any song I have ever heard. Not only it is astoundingly atmospheric (sounding not unlike a Godspeed You Black Emperor track), the story is a chilling tale of murder where clues as to whodunit are cleverly woven into the lyrics. Only a thorough knowledge of John Milton’s work will allow the listener to fully understand it (or, like me you can simply read the liner notes). Not all the songs are as cunning at ‘Song Of Joy’ though. Where the opener is complex and clever so ‘Stagger Lee’ is downright gruesome.
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By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Jun. 2010
Format: Audio CD
Murder entails loss but it also has its own currency of rush, release and respect, the 3R's. Resentment floww as a raging undercurrent of retribution, make that 5R's.

Nick imbibes the sweat, cold palpatating heartbeat of high blood pressurised rage of the perpetrator, 6R's. In previous incarnations his protagonists were male, Nick now breathes the perfume of the female pathological killer perpetuating revenge, the final of the 7R's.

Stumbling into O' Malleys Bar he blasts his tongue with wit into the packed room. Emptying his smouldering word chamber onto the drinking denizens they fall to the floor clutching their stomachs. Knocked off their perches they ooze with body fluids into the cellar below whilst their souls ascend or descend to their maker.

Hands in the air; "Don't kill me," he pleads, stumbling out to face the survival of the fittest. All screamed in comic parody.

Stagger Lee kicks in the door as King Ink's murderous half brother, he sniffs around whilst beating his meatinto a rhythm onto Satan's all nite bar. The patron's firstly scream with derision before wetting themselves with fright or flight. Customers deceased due to a liddle misunderstandin'. Turning desire from the town brass to same sex lust, Stagger announces he is the Lavender killer.

Henry Lee throws the tables into 4 upturned sticks, a sickly sweet traditional ballad bringing the killer, a little girl with a pen knife, into a morbid haloed spotlight of no redemption.

Kindness of Stangers does another Cave Twist, the malevolence of strangers purrs a sweet evocation of innocence whilst a woman is killed trustingly and in despair for love whilst her protagonist perceives she has money.
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