on 7 February 2001
I have got all Nick Cave's albums and this one holds a special plce in my black little heart because it's the first one I bought. I was in a large music retailer one day and I picked up the headphones on the listening post and put them on just for a laugh. My ears wre hit by the chilling opening chords of 'Song of Joy'. I was astounded, never having heard anything like it before. I just stood there and listened to the rest of the album. This album is proof that death is a great subject for song writing, and it is much in the tradition of the blues storytelling of the American deep south and also the folk ballad tradition. The blues on the album are dirty, gritty and scary, listen to 'Song of Joy', 'Crow Jane', 'O'Malley's Bar'. The Ballads have beautiful melodies and terrifying subject matter. The duets with Kylie Minnougue, 'Where the Wild Roses Grow', and Polly Harvey on 'Henry Lee' have to be two of the best Murder ballad's ever written. The theatrical songs, 'The Curse of Milhaven', telling the tale of a serial killing 15 year old girl, and the final 'Death is not the End', a cover of a Bob Dylan song, are also great. Overall its a carthatic album if a rather bizarre one. It really does work and if you like it, I recommend you check out Johnny Cash's 'Murder' album and see where Nick got some of his influences from.
on 10 February 2014
I love this album. I wasn't a Nick Cave fan simply because I didn't really know his music until he duetted with Kylie Minogue. I then heard Henry Lee with PJ Harvey, and I decided to buy the album to hear more. And I'm glad I did.
This is a collection of breathtakingly original, genuinely spooky songs, each telling a story from beinning to end. Where The Wild Roses Grow, Death Is Not The End, Henry Lee are all brilliant, but then so is every track on this album. If you like original music that has something to say, this is an album for you.
Only, don't listen to it last thing at night. You may want to sleep with the lights on .........
Song Of Joy - despite the title, this is a harrowing tale of a doctor who turns up one night at a stranger's desolate house, asking if he will be given shelter for the night in payment for him telling the homeowner a tale of his life. He does not wait for an answer and launches into his story - how he married a young woman named Joy but soon after, she fell victim to a 'melancholy' that settled over the house, making her children as quiet as Church mice, almost as though Joyce could foresee her bloody end. One night the doctor came home from a house-call to find his wife and three children stabbed to death - the children still in their cots. Spookily, the doctor adds that they never caught the man responsible. Would you believe him - and would you let him stay the night??
Lovely Creature - this song is setting a man's worst nightmare to music. He takes a beautiful, well-dressed girl out for a walk, imagining that he takes her past the pyramids and all sorts of fanciful places, only to return home without her. He says he does not know where she has gone, but then he adds that she lies buried underground, still with the ribbons in her hair and green gloves upon her hands ........
Henry Lee - Probably the most twisted love story ever set to music. PJ Harvey's slightly flat, melancholy tones perfectly match Cave's - despite their actual ages, they are perfectly believable as a young couple thrown together by a chance meeting. Only she wants more than he can give her - and when he tells her he has a sweetheart back home, she stabs him 'through and through' with a penknife. "Lie there, lie there, little Henry Lee, til the flesh drops from your bones'. Who ever heard such a chilling line sung? "The girl you have in that merry green land can wait forever for you to come home," she adds viciously, before disposing of his body in a "deep, deep well that's more than one hundred feet."
Where The Wild Roses Grow - the most polished song on the album, but also one of the most charming. Nick Cave saw something in Kylie - the way she can keep on adapting and growing, her ability to allow other artistes to mould her into something new - and he knew that Kylie's sweet innocence would be ideal for the role of Eliza Day. She's the young romantic who falls for a man who gives her wild roses, then he kills her and lays her in the river next to those roses. He believes she is too beautiful to live. Eliza is singing her part of the duet from the grave - she wants the world to know that she had a name - Eliza Day - rather than the sensationalist tag "The Wild Rose". You can just imagine the newspapers coming up with that sort of moniker for the murdered girl.
The Curse of Millhaven - a bawdy romp through the murderous antics of Loretta ("I prefer Lottie") who sits at the interview table, restrained by a strait-jacket, her lips foaming as she gleefully recounts her killings - ("I'm a monster, I admit it!" Any song that can rhyme the phrase 'Rorshach Tests' is a winner with me. Classic lines - "Well, my hair ain't yellow and my eyes ain't green / it's more like the other way around!" and "If bad was a boot, I'd fit it."
Death Is Not The End - The Bad Seeds, Shane McGowan, Kylie, PJ Harvey, and Anita Lane join Nick Cave for a final, desperately hopeful sing-along. Death Is Not the End they say, and if Eliza Day can sing from beyond the grave, how can it be?
Stagger Lee - he knows he's the baddest guy in town and now he's going to make sure everyone else knows it too. He ignores the old prostitute trying to tempt him and instead turns his attentions to her pimp before killing him. It's like the lowest, meanest Western come to life ......
The Kindness of Strangers - this is a fantastic, excellent song. Young Mary Bellows leaves her home in Arkansas for the first time, to see the sea and spread her wings. She takes a train to a nameless town and, on said train, she meets a man "called Richard Slade" who she chats with on the journey. He even carries her suitcase to the door of her hotel room, but remembering her mother's advice, she tells him, "I'm a good girl, sir, she said to him / I couldn't possibly permit you in". So Slade, seeming to take this well, "tips his hat and winks his eye / and turned away without goodbye".
Alone in her room, Mary ponders on her new friendship, and begins to think her life may be more exciting if she took a few risks. So, "In hope and loneliness, she crossed the floor / and undid the latch on her front door." This is the worst thing she could have done, for Richard Slade, it turns out (if that is even his real name), wasn't that happy after all at being turned away earlier.
"They found Mary Bellows cuffed to the bed, with a rag in her mouth and a bullet in her head / O poor Mary Bellows" sings Cave, with all the macabre intonation of the sensationalist Victorian newspapers of the day. Mary echoes his last verse - warning others: "So mothers keep your girls at home / don't let them journey out alone \ tell them this world is full of danger \ to shun the company of strangers." Mary's crying can be heard as the song peters out. It's a genuinely haunting song - it greally makes your skin prickle.
How could you not love an album that not only contains such fantastic songs but, among the credits, details who did the 'screaming' and the 'crying' as well as who played what instrument. And on "The Curse of Millhaven", the Bad Seeds and Anita Lane among others join in on backing vocals as the "Moron Tabernacle Choir"!
Unfortunately, there's one song that was missed off this album of 'Murder Ballads' - a song I would have loved to hear. It's where two hundred music fans murder Peter Andre ...........
on 31 December 2003
Tales of murder and death, sometimes hilarious though often heartbreaking... regardless of how far he goes with his lyrical content, Cave’s genius has always been in creating and sustaining a mood that the listener can totally lose themselves in.
Here the underlining concern is in the creation of a bleak and suffocating atmosphere, only occasionally broken by Cave’s amazingly dark wit and always-colourful use of language. The form is taken straight from the tradition of the English ballad, with confessional structures, biblical imagery, lurid subject matter and larger than life caricatures all jostling for our attention. It works because Cave doesn’t take it too seriously. Songs like Stagger Lee, The Curse of Millhaven and the epic O’Malley’s Bar seem to take their cue from cabaret, or at their most, musical theatre. It lightens the mood, making the more suffocating moments like Song for Joy - a shocking parable about a young doctor robbed of his family - less soul destroying. The two contrasting elements create a nice blend that takes the listener on an intimate journey into the deepest, darkest depths of despair.
As always, Cave is complimented by his wonderful Bad Seeds, who are here on fine form. The arrangements are atmospherically complex, though never what you would call cluttered; whilst an assortment of varied guest stars (such as PJ Harvey, Kylie Minogue and Shane MacGowan) add to the frenzied, 'don’t give a f-ck' spirit of the album. Cave has done better work than this... but never before, and most likely never again, will we ever see his appetite for horror, bloodshed and death in such an unashamed, and certainly uncensored approach as this. What else is there to say...?
on 12 September 2014
My annual penance is to spend the weekend chez my Mother-in-Law. This is a stressful time, as every year I get confirmation that The Devil's Disciple is getting more and more like the Devil herself. "Mirror mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all!"
Having packed the trip essentials - Gin; Tonic; Bat Bite Serum and a packet of rat poison, all I had to do was contemplate the long drive to Pendle Hill.
Readers of my past reviews will know that music is an important source of inspiration to me, and the way I was feeling, I needed all the help I could get. Luckily, I stumbled upon this album. Dark, melancholy, tortured. It encapsulated my exact emotions at the time and put me in a perfect frame of mind for yet another weekend of hell. (It also gave me some ideas for future visits....)
Nick Cave fans - this is a wonderful album that rewards repeated hearing. Fellow Devil/Disciple sufferers - buy it. At the very least you'll appreciate that you're not alone in your misery!
on 10 November 2012
I bought my first Nick Cave CD after seeing his video on MTV of Where the Wild Roses Grow with Kylie, as a safe start I bought The Best of, wasn't disappointed and have since purchased Dig Lazarous, Abbattoir Blues/Wild Orpheus, then a few weeks ago bought Murder Ballads and OST Lawless. First play of Murder Ballads was in the car driving along the M1, my first thoughts were that this was a very dark and depressing collection, after a few plays and repeats as it has only today been removed from the car, I have to say it does bring a wry smile when playing it now. It is absolutely brilliant, every song has its own life, full of deep seated thoughts, anxiety and to me a definate fun side.
Stagger Lee is just brilliant, played on my mp3 in alphabetical order it appears next to Stagger Lee by Neil Diamond, such a contrast. The lyrics to Stagger Lee are of a great tale, great story even if explicit but it does fit perfectly in this collection, plus it has a fantastic bass line for playing a bit loud in the car, just brilliant
My original Nick Cave introduction with Kylie is on here, so thats a bonus too, Lovely Creature has a great rythm and story.
All in all there is not a bad song on this album for me, usually there is a track to be skipped but not on here, my wife on the other hand would easily skip them all, it is not everyones cup of tea, but I would most definately recommend this album, if you like a good story with a twist and a wry smile while you are listening then just buy this you will not be disappointed.
Having played it today in the house and rather loud, it just gets better.