Nick Cave is an internationally renowned musician from the North East of Victoria
, Australia. He started out in The Birthday Party
, a rather weird Post-Punk
band who would become a big influence on Goth
rock. In the middle of The Eighties
went on to found Nick Cave and the Cavemen, who fairly quickly renamed themselves to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. In recent years he's formed a third band, Grinderman, who very unusually for him
play rather straightforwards rock music
He is also the author of the novels And The Ass Saw The Angel
and The Death Of Bunny Munro
, as well as the script for The Proposition
, for which he and bandmate Warren Ellis (no, not that Warren Ellis
) also composed the soundtrack. And he's occasionally acted, most notably in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
(he appears as a musician, playing the folk song "Jesse James"), which he and Ellis again scored. The film version of The Road
was scored by him and Ellis, and directed by John Hillcoat, who also did The Proposition
His songs range from gentle love songs, to angsty songs of pain, to full-on murder ballads
; he wrote a whole album of the latter. He's also known for deeply held, though unconventional, religious views; his songs and novels are rife with Christian symbolism, though he denies in recent interviews that he believes in a personal or interventionist God (so...Deist, maybe? Post-theist?).
Compare Tom Waits
, who has a somewhat similar style, and who is confirmed
to be an influence on Cave.
He provides examples of:
- Anti-Love Song: A number of songs by both The Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds, including "Where the Wild Roses Grow," "Do You Love Me?" parts 1 and 2 and "Jack The Ripper." The love songs on The Boatman's Call are a bit too stark and minimalist to be considered "silly" love songs and would easily qualify.
- One album of his, a recorded lecture titled "The Secret Life Of The Love Song", features him musing on how many alleged songs of love are actually songs of hate. He proceeds to illustrate a genuine lovesong he found among the dross of pop by playing Kylie Minogue's "Better The Devil You Know"; him, a piano, and a Stock-Aitken-Waterman pop ditty makes for a profoundly disturbing combination, since - for once - you pay attention to the lyrics.
- Ax-Crazy: From the Birthday Party there's the subject of "Hamlet (Pow Pow Pow)" who is a gun-happy sociopath bearing a crucifix. Murder Ballads by the Bad Seeds has at least six songs featuring outright homicidal maniacs. In particular Lottie from "The Curse of Milhaven" is literally rabid with psychopathic murderous rage., as well as the protagonist of "Stagger Lee", who is not only a murderous psychopath, but also a sadistic rapist who doesn't discriminate based on gender.
- Surprisingly averted in "Jack The Ripper." In spite of its namesake, the song has nothing to do with the infamous murderer.
- Badass Mustache / Badass Beard: With Grinderman came a mustache to the formerly clean-shaven Cave. Many of the members of Grinderman and a few of the Bad Seeds sport Bad Ass facial hair such as Warren Ellis' wild-man grizzly beard.
- Book Ends: Let Love In ends with a reprisal of the first song "Do You Love Me?". The former song describes an abusive relationship with a woman, the latter the character's molestation as a child.
- Black Widow: In "Henry Lee" the titular character runs afoul of a rather jealous one.
- Call Back: The first song on the album Murder Ballads, "Song of Joy" (About a man telling the story of how his wife and daughters were murdered by a serial killer) has two back to the previous album Let Love In. The first is the speaker using the phrase "All things move towards their end", which is a phrase used similarly in the song "Do You Love Me?". Another during his description of the murder scene, where the killer has used blood to write the words "His Red Right Hand" on the wall. This is cited as a reference to John Milton's Paradise Lost, but is also a reference to the song Red Right Hand.
- Concept Album: Henry's Dream, Murder Ballads, Dig Lazarus Dig!!! and The Lyre of Orpheus
- Corrupt Hick: A plethora of characters in "And The Ass Saw The Angel."
- Deadpan Snarker: In several interviews.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The Lyre Of Orpheus. The well went down very deep/ Very deep went down the well.
- Depraved Bisexual: Stagger Lee.
- Distinct Double Album: Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. The former CD was harder-edged and the latter was notably softer and more melancholy.
- Duet Bonding: Led to his relationship with Polly Jean Harvey.note
- Enfant Terrible: The Curse of Millhaven, And The Ass Saw the Angel
- Epic Rocking: The 15-minute long "O'Malley's Bar."
- And the 14-minute "Babe, I'm On Fire."
- And the uncut 30-minute version of Leonard Cohen's "Tower Of Song."
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The album Murder Ballads.
- Forehead of Doom
- Goth Rock: They're a tricky aversion. The Bad Seed's music is gothic in terms of using imagery inspired by the time period of the "gothic revival" in America, due to Cave's fascination with American history, the old west and the deep south. The genre of gothic music was heavily influenced by both The Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds even though they existed before the term "goth" had any foothold as a subculture. The result is that the Bad Seeds get incorrectly attached to the gothic rock genre along with bands that identify as "goth bands" in spite of the fact they literally do play what you would call "gothic revival-influenced rock."
- Grievous Bottley Harm: Cave once punched a thrown pint glass, breaking it, and kept on playing without any sign of pain. Of course, that did happen at the Hacienda.
- Grief Song: "A Box For Black Paul" which fans have speculated references the breakup of The Birthday Party.
- Although not autobiographical Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere? from The Boatman's Call is an extremely moving song about the death of a child.
- Guttural Growler: Used on occasion. An example would be "Lovely Creature" off of Murder Ballads.
- Iconic Outfit: Nick's suit. Notably absent in the video for "More News From Nowhere"
- In The Style Of: Most notably his rather bizarre cover of Leonard Cohen's Avalanche.
- The Birthday Party is Nick & Friends putting their own twist on The Stooges.
- Let's Duet: Many, including PJ Harvey, Kylie Minogue, Blixa Bargeld, Shane MacGowan and Chris Bailey. Cave also sang with Alan Vega of Suicide during a special live performance of Grinderman; at another Grinderman show, he was joined by Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra.
- Lonely Piano Piece: Cave's multiple stints of depression and drug use came out in the form of stripped down and sorrowful piano pieces, especially on The Boatman's Call and No More Shall We Part.
- Looks Like Cesare: Did so in the Birthday Party and early Bad Seeds.
- Love Hurts: A frequent theme of his lyrics. He has stated that the topics of his songs are always about "Love, death or God."
- Lyrical Dissonance
- Magic Music: The effects of "The Lyre of Orpheus"
- Money Song: "Easy Money" off of Abbatoir Blues, although he certainly doesn't sound like he's running the Ritz in it.
- Multinational Team: The Bad Seeds have had Australian, American, Swiss, German and British personnel pass through their ranks over the years.
- Musical Assassin: The carnage wrought in "The Lyre of Orpheus"
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Combines American folk music with gothic post-punk and, recently, blues-influenced rock and roll.
- New Sound Album / Surprisingly Gentle Album: Happened thrice with the Bad Seeds. The Good Son was a shockingly gentle follow-up to the intense Tender Prey. Then it happened again with both The Boatman's Call and No More Shall We Part following a year after the moody and dark Murder Ballads. The Boatman's Call was much better received than The Good Son, perhaps because it was less of a shock the second time to hear the Bad Seeds do an album full of sorrowful songs and Lonely Piano Piece tracks. Then it happened a third time with Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!! sounding more like the rock & roll of Grinderman than anything else they'd done previously.
- Ode to Intoxication: The Birthday Party's own "Mutiny In Heaven" is a manic ode to heroin abuse. Several songs off of No More Shall We Part allude to Cave's time in detox such as "Oh My Lord."
- Omnicidal Maniac: Lottie from "The Curse Of Millhaven" has shades of this: "All God's children, they all got to die."
- Overly-Long Gag: The last chorus of "The Mercy Seat" repeats fourteen times before getting to the punchline.
- Rage Against the Heavens: "We Call Upon the Author" lists many of the horrible things that go on in our world, with the chorus of "We call upon the author to explain!". As God is the "author" of our reality...
- Rape and Revenge: The subject of "Crow Jane."
- Record Producer: The Bad Seeds tend to produce most of their own albums, but one producer in particular David Briggs stands out for Cave being so unhappy with how he produced Henry's Dream that the Bad Seeds recorded an entire live album featuring most of the same songs done their way just to compensate.
- Red Right Hand: The trope is named after a song of his.
- Revolving Door Band: Members have changed almost yearly, album-to-album. As of now only Cave is the remaining original member of their lineup when they recorded From Her To Eternity.
- Sharp-Dressed Man
- Silly Love Songs: Unsurprisingly few as most songs about love by the Bad Seeds are actually Anti Love Songs. "Love Letter" and "Babe, You Turn Me On" are a couple of the silly variety.
- Smoking Is Cool
- Something Blues:
- Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus album.
- The Grinderman song "No Pussy Blues".
- Grinderman 2 has "Bellringer Blues".
- "Higgs Boson Blues" on Push The Sky Away.
- The Something Song:
- "The Weeping Song," "The Ship Song," "The Train Song," "The Hammer Song," "The Witness Song,"
- The B-Side to "Loverman" is "The B-Side Song."
- He also covered a different "Hammer Song" by Alex Harvey.
- Soprano and Gravel: He's done duets with PJ Harvey (Henry Lee), Anita Lane (I love you... Nor Do I), and Kylie Minogue (Where the Wild Roses Grow).
- Spelling Song: "Loverman."
- Take That, Critics!: "Scum."
- This Is a Song: "This is a weeping song, a song in which to weep."
- Unreliable Narrator: The subject of "Song Of Joy" off of Murder Ballads.
- Villain Song / The Villain Sucks Song: In "Up Jumped The Devil" the narrator literally states "He was doomed to play the villain's part" as he describes his fleeing to Mexico from justice and the devil himself. Cave also covered "Mack The Knife" for a Kurt Weill tribute album, which is a classic case of the latter trope. Then there' "Stagger Lee" which is probably one of the most brutal songs ever written.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Cave and Henry Rollins. Rollins once related how he had learned of the first Grinderman gig while in Lebanon, flown directly to California to see it, and accosted Cave and the band backstage, telling them how he'd got there and that it had better be good. Cave's response according to Rollins was: "Henry, you're a fucking psychotic."
- Word Salad Lyrics: To varying degrees.
- "Mama eat the pygmy, the pygmy eat the monkey, the monkey has a gift that he is sending back to you" from "Higgs Boson Blues" is a good recent example.