Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: From Her To Eternity

By: Dennis Cook

The first four Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds albums have been lovingly reissued by Mute Records with bonus cuts, videos and a 5.1 surround sound mix. We'll be examining each of these steps in the evolution of one of the great artists and bands of our time, starting with Cave's 1984 solo debut after gaining dark notoriety in The Birthday Party.

From Her To Eternity (reissued May 19 on Mute) sort of dares one to take the full, clattering, premeditatively gnarly ride from first cut to last. The general vibe is akin to someone poking a recent wound, being asked to stop, pausing just long enough to make you relax, and then poking you again with a look pitched somewhere between tears and a leer accompanying their low chuckle. Nick Cave and his malleable collaborators like to get a reaction, and their debut quickly separates the faithful from the faithless. Over-pregnant with portent and literary weight, From Her To Eternity is ready to blow, the zygote of the brilliance to come already germinating rapidly.

In a voice equal parts antiquated bluesman, padded wall inmate, spit gobbing punk and Revelation seared preacher, Cave fists murky waters and decaying hearts here. The music, mixing distancing minimalism with a crazed wail something like a small circus being cattle prodded, matched their leader's impolite rant, and together create one of experimentalism's sexiest recorded moments. This makes no concessions to listenability yet comes on with such musk one can't resist getting some of their mess on them. Opening with a creepy, desperate reading of Leonard Cohen's "Avalanche," the plot only thickens from there. From the Mayberry whistling on "Saint Huck" as they prepare to put a bullet between his eyes to "Well of Misery," which conjures a chain gang in Hades or boatmen with oar-scarred hands on the River Styx, these are chants skyward with prayers weighed down by pockets full of sorrow. From the start Cave has unflinchingly grappled with the denizens of Heaven and Hell, seemingly funereal but rising up with the might of man – a bloody, tactile force that slashes and burns, cradles and flays throughout Cave's catalog.

25 years on from From Her To Eternity's initial release it's even clearer what a foreshadowing masterpiece it is. The band arrived with the rudiments of their musical language intact, an alchemical rush that anchors Lightnin' Hopkins to William Blake, Jim Morrison to P.T. Barnum, and frontier outlaw thinking to rock cabaret. Emerging from screams and screams and screams, From Her To Eternity gets a filthy fingernail into your nicks and scratches, an infectious sting similar to Bob Dylan's contagion - music that haunts the bloodstream and churns the mind.

The sound quality on this reissue is vastly superior to previous editions, making what was already creepily intimate even closer to the skin. The packaging reproduces Cave's original serial-killer-in-his-attic scrawled notes as well as insightful new glosses by Amy Hanson. The bonus material, including a swell cover of Elvis fave "In The Ghetto," adds extra minutes of pleasure and the videos offer period visual texture, though the language on here (as with all Cave releases) is already exquisitely sumptuous and dotted with juicy references galore, a hugely visual panorama of a distressing, wild imagination at work. It's a hell of beginning with so much more right around the corner.

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[Published on: 6/10/09]

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