Monday, June 16, 2014

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - From Her to Eternity

This week (June 18th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of From Her to Eternity, the debut album from the Australian group Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The record peaked at number 40 in the UK. The title is a play on title of the 1951 novel From Here To Eternity.

The roster of the group included Nick Cave (on vocals, organ and harmonica), Blixa Bargeld (guitar and vocals), Hugo Race (guitar and vocals), Barry Adamson (bass and vocals) and Mick Harvey (drums, piano and vocals).

Side one opens with "Avalanche", a cover of the 1971 Leonard Cohen song from his third album Songs of Love and Hate. Cave's gravelly vocals and the minimalist accompaniment paint a dark and tragic picture.

"Cabin Fever!" has an urgent rhythm to it, mirroring the track's anxiety level.

The band next slowly sinks into the "Well of Misery". This one, a mix of the blues and a spiritual/dirge, is actually the first track from the album that I liked.

Closing out the side is the title track "From Her to Eternity". The combination of the piano and percussion works very well here; it sets up a very tense mood.

Side two starts with the seven and a half minute long "Saint Huck". The music and the spoken-word-like vocals pull the listener along on this wandering odyssey of a country youth in a big city.

"Wings Off Flies" features a ceremonial, tribal drumbeat. The lyrics focus on tortured insects and tortured souls.

The album comes to a close with "A Box For Black Paul", which is nearly ten minutes in length. I was waiting for this one to pick up, but instead it just shuffled along.

Later CD releases of the album included a cover of "In the Ghetto", the Mac Davis penned 1969 hit for Elvis Presley. As a single, this newer version went to number 84 on the UK charts. Also on the CD release was the single's B-side "The Moon is in the Gutter".

In 1984, I hardly would have given From Her to Eternity even a moment's thought; Nick Cave and company's music was not a style I was into. Thirty years later, with a broader music appreciation, I still struggled with it. The first side started out a little rough for me but ended strong with two tracks I liked. Side two was okay for one listen but none of the three stuck enough for a revisit.

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