The Firstborn Is Dead CD+DVD
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Remastered CD/DVD, Album in 5.1 surround sound, short film, b-sides, extended sleeve notes. Sophomore album from 1985 includes "Tupelo" and "Knockin' On Joe".
The second album from Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, which focused the band's attention on the US, gothic storytelling, and the blues. Features the songs "Tupelo", "Black Crow King" and "Blind Lemon Jefferson".
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Apparently Snow was privy to an advanced tape owing to his past championing of the Birthday Party & the Bad Seeds' debut, "From Her To Eternity".
Snow apparently was so beside himself to write an "advance" review. Only problem was it was a bad review. The key word being, "Disappointed".
Not the best idea considering Cave was a former roommate. Snow was later rewarded by having a special song dedicated to his honor, "Scum". (see Your Funeral...My Trial).
I mention this only because Snow's opinion pretty much has cast a pall on how this album has been perceived over the years. To this day, many fans & critics consider it to be The Bad Seeds' least appealing record.
Personally, this was my introduction & it packed a punch. The sonic equivalent of a pair of brass knuckles coming at you in slow motion. Without a doubt, it left a lasting impression. And you're talking to a reluctant convert here. I pretty much wrote Cave off as a 2nd rate Punk imitation of Jim Morrison with delusions of grandeur. But with this I did a 180º & the conversion was complete.
Being a big Elvis Presley fan since childhood I couldn't help but recognize the satire & homage going on here.
The signature track here is "Tupelo". Cave & company perfectly capture the restless paranoia preceding a hard rain about to fall. A lot of ink has been shed on it being about the birth of Elvis. And it is. Presley was a twin whose brother was stillborn. Thus the album title. But perhaps it's not an ode, so much as a satire on the unfound importance some place on their Rock idols.
The point is, this stuff isn't meant to be taken literally. Perhaps alliteration is the more operative word. These aren't songs of personal confession so much as character driven narratives.
Without a doubt, "Girl Tree" is a disturbing piece. Its protagonist wanting to "bind your maiden mainstem just to keep you as a child"... But instead of the typical murder ballad, our hero hangs himself rather than defile. A dark, but moral tale to be sure.
"Long Train Suffering" tips its hat to Presley's "Mystery Train" ripping the iron off the rails while "Black Crow King" is a cautionary tale on the perils of believing one's own press. Its chain-gang refrains & gavel percussion echoing a never ending sentence.
As for "Knocking On Joe", there's never been a prison song that's captured the monotony & ennui of an incarcerated life more. Our hero would rather take a hammer to his hands rather than spend another day at hard labor atoning for his sins.
One wonders why Dylan gave permission for Cave to cover let alone re-write "Wanted Man" but perhaps he recognized the irony expressed. A vengeful reply to all those wanting a piece of you.
"Blind Lemon Jefferson", closes the album, & perhaps the Bad Seeds stumbled on a whole new genre here, "Ambient Blues".
In terms of "Americana" this album was way ahead of it's time. And a thousand shades darker & more over the top than the usual fare. No one was doing anything like this at the time. Completely out of step & out of time. Sparse & slow in tempo, First Born is an unforgettable fistful of Southern Gothic dementia.
Can you tell I love this album?
Challenge yourself with it & you're sure to be rewarded. A dark, funny & brave record.