Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: The Firstborn Is Dead

By: Dennis Cook

We continue our examination of one of the reissue series of '09.

In hindsight, one can discern the skeletal outline of everything that's come in the wake of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds second outing, the grimly titled The Firstborn Is Dead (Mute). A rangy, passionate grapple with blues, chain gang songs, gothic imagery (i.e. Flannery O'Connor not Cure fans) and spoken word, Firstborn rattles and wails with the untamed intensity of the earliest blues 78s filtered through an apocalyptic, absinthe imagination. Arms stretched across storms, bodies falling everywhere, black crows gathered close and rusty strings crying hard, this music captures the desperation and darkness of the genre in a unique way that Cave and his collaborators have spent the next 24 years exploring to stunning effect. Firstborn presents the rudiments of their approach, simpler language and arrangements sure but the sailing ship group chants, prickly delivery and Cave's fathoms deep voice are all in top form here. It's a tad more "enjoyable" (if such a word can be used in this context…) than their debut, and the funereal pace of From Her To Eternity increases to a deliberate saunter that announces a group well on their way to one of the most original, influential sounds in the past quarter century. And once again, the 5.1 surround mix, archival video and spruced up album sound all elevate this reissue above earlier editions.

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[Published on: 9/28/09]

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