Nick Cave has been making music for a while now, technically since 1973. And in that time he's released some great records with his band The Birthday Party and even better ones as the leader of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I'm talking about some top notch records, records you should hear - From Her to Eternity, Let Love In, The Boatman's Call just to name a few. What's remarkable about this band, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, probably the best and most enduring rock band this side of the E. Street Band is that even after all that time and all those great records, classic records, they wouldn't release their masterpiece until 2004. This is that record, well, those records. Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus.
Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus are two records masquerading as a "double album". They came in a set. You couldn't buy one without the other which thank goodness. If you haven't heard this record then, shit, I'm almost jealous. Abattoir/Lyre is the kind of record that I wish I could hear for the first time again.
I have a very long and fruitful musical relationship with Nick Cave and it all started by mistake. When I was 15 years old I was a member of Columbia House. Remember Columbia House? Get 8 albums for a penny and then buy 3 more at regular price and you get 2 more free or some scam like that? When you join Columbia House you have to check your favorite type of music. I was hip, you know, so I chose "alternative". Now the thing about Columbia House is every month they send you a booklet and in that booklet is your "selection of the month". Based on your taste in music, a record is selected that you should, in theory, like. Now, you are not beholden to the selection of the month, unless of course you don't send a postcard back to them saying you don't want it. Any former Columbia House member can tell you, more often than not we forgot to send the cards back and we would inevitably end up with the selection of the month. You could send it back and I usually did, but then one time I didn't.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Murder Ballads was one of my selections of the month and I didn't send it back. I knew of Nick Cave. I read SPIN after all and had already decided I was a huge PJ Harvey fan by the time Murder Ballads ended up in my mailbox (PJ lends guest vocal to the track "Henry Lee" on the record), so I kept it and I was stunned by it.
I ended up becoming a bit obsessed with Nick Cave - an obsession that continues to this day. When Abattoir/Lyre was released, Cave was nearing fifty and Blixa Bargeld, the Bad Seeds' guitar player for twenty years, had left the band leaving fans unsure of what Cave would come up with.
Cave, at his best, comes across as equal parts preacher and carnival barker (not that there's much of a difference) and a lot of that is all over this record. From the opening salvo of Abattoir's great "Get Ready For Love" all the way through to Lyre's last track "O Children" a full on chorus number with a gospel choir that manages to be, fuck it, inspirational without inducing an eye roll, it's all great.
But, I'm biased. I am a really big Cave fan, but truth is if you've never heard him and you asked me which record to check out, I wouldn't bat an eye. It's this one...well I guess these two, but still...