One of my favourite things ever is rediscovering something I was really into in the past, and falling in love with it all over again. And that’s exactly what’s been happening to me with Nick Cave, and his 1996 album Murder Ballads. I’ve known that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are awesome for some time now, but I have rekindled my obsession, and I just can’t stop listening. Murder Ballads is fantastic. And if you haven’t heard it, it’s also pretty fucking creepy. As the title suggests, it’s a collection of songs about murder, ranging from the heartbreaking to the downright disturbing.
Song of Joy is narrated by a drifter, recalling how his wife and their children were murdered by a killer who is still on the loose and murdering more people. However, something is just… off. The music is just soooo creepy, and while it’s never stated, it’s suggested that the drifter himself is the killer.
Stagger Lee is based on a traditional African-American song about the convicted St Louis murderer Lee Shelton.
Henry Lee is also based on a folk tale, and tells the story of a woman who kills the man she loves because he doesn’t return her affections. P.J. Hervey was a guest artist.
Lovely Creature is almost like a dream. A man recalls meeting a beautiful girl and having surreal adventures with her, only to find upon returning home that she’s gone, and she lies somewhere ‘between the slow drifting sands’. It’s a sort of allegory of finding love and losing it through death.
Where the Wild Roses Grow is probably the best known song on the album. Cave duets with Kylie Minogue to tell the story of a man’s obsession with a beautiful woman which culminates with him killing her while they are out together. The song was released as a single, and the video is both beautiful and unnerving.
The Curse of Millhaven is my favourite at the moment, which probably says something slightly worrying about me. Its narrator is a psychotic adolescent girl, recalling from her institution how she murdered several residents of her town. God, this song’s disturbing. It’s also exciting, which all good horror should be. I just love it.
The Kindness of Strangers is about a lonely young woman travelling alone, who makes the mistake of trusting the wrong person. This one’s really sad. It sums up how some people can’t shake off their bad fortune, no matter how much they deserve better.
Crow Jane is a kind of ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ tale about a woman who is gang raped and sets out to kill her abusers.
O’Malley’s Bar is over 14 minutes long. It’s also awesome. In a really messed up way, of course. It tells the tale of a man who goes crazy with a shotgun in his local bar. The murders are described in somewhat graphic detail, and having the whole thing from the killer’s perspective just makes it all the more gloriously disturbing.
Death is Not the End is a Bob Dylan cover, which features several guest artists including Anita Lane and Shane McGowan (who sounds weirdly like Peter Lorre here. Is it just me?). It’s a fitting end to all the carnage.
The death-toll comes to at least 65 people, and the experience is beautiful and horrific. Mr Cave, I salute you.