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The Story Behind the Song: ‘Stranger Than Kindness’ The Bad Seeds song Anita Lane wrote about Nick Cave

Nick Cave’s first vehicle to stardom was The Birthday Party, and in truth, it was a vehicle that was always headed towards beautiful, flaming wreckage. For all of its defiant originality at a time where the fantastic incendiary brilliance of the late sixties finally began to wane into synth saturated sedation, it was a chaotic boon that summoned up a new sonic maelstrom from the embers in a melee of creativity. And yet, it was fated to be terminal from its very inception. It needed honing and refining, and it was at this pivotal moment, when The Bad Seeds rose from the ash heap, that they needed the force of Anita Lane’s vitalising inspiration the most. On the sad week of her passing, we would like to thank her for that. 

“There seem to be three parts to the creative process,” Nick Cave once said. “The not knowing, the sudden knowing of what to do, then the doing of it. Anita was great at that middle part.” What she lacked, Cave explained was the latter stage which he aptly brought to the table for many of their collaborative projects. 

In all other ways, Cave professed back in 2015, that Lane was the best of The Bad Seeds, “Her influence was huge. She had much more raw talent than any of us did. She was a better drawer, a better painter, she was a great lyric writer.” And then Cave goes on to explain how she wrote the track ‘Stranger Than Kindness’.

Although she also co-wrote the Bad Seeds beauty, ‘From Her To Eternity’ and contributed lyrics to The Birthday Party and a slew of other Bad Seeds songs, ‘Stranger Than Kindness’ resides as the only original in Nick Cave’s back catalogue that was written by someone else entirely. For the track from The Bad Seeds 1986 record Your Funeral… My Trial, Anita Lane scribbled down the lyrics and squirrelled away on a composition with Blixa Bargeld in private before presenting the track to the band. 

“She wrote a song called ‘Stranger Than Kindness’,” Cave declared, “which we still perform to this day, mostly because it’s such a beautifully obscure lyric.” And the obscurity of the lyric derives from the fractious tumult that comes with the firmament of being in a relationship with a drug-addled Nick Cave. The imagery of ambivalence and the ambiguous helplessness held within the powerful lyrics is as stirring as they come. Despite the fact that the song was about him, he still happily sings it to this day, and it is this lustreless allure that makes it reside as one of his favourites. 

“It’s an obscure, delicate, strange lyric, and I assume that it is about me because we were dating at the time, and it’s one of those beautiful lyrics that can reveal more every time you sing it, really.” This mystic miasma is mirrored perfectly in Blixa Bargeld’s paradoxically ethereally delicate yet heavier than air, leaden silk of score. 

In the week of Anita Lane’s passing, this song stands as a poignant reminder of what she was capable of as an artist, and it stands out now, more than ever, as a gilded transfiguration of artistic hope, as it asserts that even in passing a balm of beauty can be left behind. The profundity of ‘Stanger Than Kindness’ has settled in the mystic as a crystallised defiant piece of experiential art. 

The creative collaboration that she helped to concoct with The Bad Seeds is a feat that the world is thankful for, and it was Cave himself who penned a beautiful poem in tribute, which you can check out below, along with a live recording of ‘Stranger Than Kindness’:

How could something so luminous carry so much darkness?
Drank gin out of a baby’s bottle.
Despised the concept of the muse but was everybody’s.
Spoke in a child’s voice and was my best friend.
Two months ago, speaking to her on the phone she seemed a million miles away.
Loved her children more than anything. They were her pride and joy.
It was both easy and terrifying to love her.
Leaves a big, crying space.

Love, Nick.

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