Few artists can walk the earth with the label of unique and not feel like a cheat. The tag is such a gigantic one in a world of identikit indie bands and laptop warriors that we don’t use it lightly. But, if there is one singular man in rock right now, it has to be Nick Cave. An artist who found fame and notoriety through a plethora of searing songs dripping with malicious intent, Cave has since become a beacon of what a rock star in the 21st century should be.
A singular voice for the past four decades, Cave began life as part of the glam rock punks The Boys Next Door before joining the more vicious outfit The Birthday Party. After some success as the leader of the post-punk band, the singer went on to create Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, with whom he has established an unshakable legacy of twisted tales of songwriting prowess. Below we’ve captured it all in one fantastic career-chronicling playlist and, at a whopping 348 tracks, can be played for a long old time.
The Boys Next Door operate as only the spark of Cave’s career. They arrived and fizzled out without much fanfare beyond their native Australia. Door, Door, the group’s only full-length release is still pleasurable listen though, capturing some of Cave’s famed intensity as well some glittery tones that would make Bowie boogie — an artist all of the members were enraptured by. The best thing the band did, in our minds, is their fabulous cover of Nancy Sinatra hit ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’. Soon enough, Cave and a few other members of the band would leave to form the far darker group The Birthday Party.
The Birthday Party’s success was equally inconsequential to Cave’s wider impression on the commercial side of the music industry, but the band has far more grounding in the roots of the singer’s career. It is within the band, and their albums Hee Haw, Prayers on Fire, Junkyard and, of course, Mutiny/The Bad Seed that we see Cave’s singular style begin to reach its potential. Doused in petrol and ready to flick a match at all times, Cave approaches his vocal with a devilish snarl that suggests he’s never far away from striking out.
It’s an approach he took into his work with The Bad Seeds. But, contrary to his previous bands’ work, this group would see Cave assume his next role — storyteller extraordinaire. Yes, Cave has always been a narrative-driven songwriter, his wordsmithery a bastion of the scene, but with The Bad Seeds, he assumed a role of an omnipotent narrator that seems to suit him to a tee. While he still got to lose himself in the insanity of his side project Grinderman from time to time, it was with The Bad Seeds that Cave confirmed his place in the pantheon of rock.
In his canon with The Bad Seeds, Cave proves that he can truly do it all. Murder Ballads may well be the most twisted and frankly one of the best albums in modern memory. Equally, his covers album Kicking Against The Pricks is a unique reimagining of some classic tracks, proving he was more than capable of shimmying like Elvis when need be. Of course, there is a moment of sincere and humble reflection too on Ghosteen, the album dedicated in many ways to the tragic death of his son, Arthur.
Cave’s discography now even includes a reflection of 2020 as Idiot Prayer an album recorded live in an empty Alexandra Palace, which is hauntingly beautiful, created to summarise a horrendous year in one perfect moment utterly. It’s some of his most poignant work meaning. Unlike some of his contemporaries of the seventies, eighties and nineties, Cave continues to operate at the highest level, unmoved by the changing winds.
Below, listen to the complete Nick Cave playlist and rmeind yourself of his talent.