A sullen prophet of soulful post-punk. A towering tout of melodramatic rock ’n’ roll.

Nick Cave has lived nine lives and he’s still kicking for more. As a young man Cave said that he felt spiritually engaged with music on a deep level, claiming to be able to feel music. Perhaps that’s why he’s managed to spend nearly 45 years making it without ever losing his grip. His fans adore him, even outside of music. He’s penned novels like The Death of Bunny Munro which attracted feverish, drooling praise across the board and scripted films like The Proposition which prompted Russell Crowe (yes that Russell Crowe) to compare Cave to Hemingway. High praise indeed.

It all started in 1973. Cave and high-school friends Mick Harvey, Phil Calvert, John Cochivera and Chris Coyne formed a band to cover the likes of Loud Reed, David Bowie and Alice Cooper. After some five years and several line-up changes that band came to be known as The Birthday Party. A noisy, brass driven unit that crossed the Pacific and grabbed the attention of that most distinguished tastemaker John Peel. In 1983 when they made it to the States Henry Rollins described the band as “One of the all time premier live acts.” Later that year, they would break up, citing tension between Cave and then guitarist Rowland S. Howard.

Cave, of course, wasted no time starting a new project. Now based in London he recruited ex-Birthday Party member Mick Harvey to play drums alongside a cast of characters including Magazine’s Barry Adams on bass, Blixa Bargeld of industrial trouble starters Einstürzende Neubaten and professional miscreant Jim G. Thirlwell. The group would come to be known as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. They were a band that could never break up over musical differences. The key is in the name, this was a band that was first and foremost about its charismatic, musically obsessive frontman.

The band have gone on to release 15 albums, undergone numerous line-up changes – most notably the departure of Blixa Bargeld and the arrival of Cave’s only plausible counterweight Warren Ellis – and formed the equally hefty and influential Grinderman. There’s been a duet with Kylie Minogue, a feature film focusing on a day in Cave’s life and countless festival headline slots. It’s probably not possible to condense Cave’s incredible, singular career into a quickly consumable list but in the hopes of pulling just one more fan into Cave’s irresistible grasp I’m going to try.

Here are the ten Nick Cave tracks you shouldn’t be living without.

The Boys Next Door - Shivers

From 1979's Door, Door

The Boys Next Door were a precursor to The Birthday Party and Shivers is taken from their only album Door, Door. Written by Rowland S. Howard Shivers is one of the first examples of real promise from Cave and his band of not-so-merry men. It’s more pop and less hostile than songs like A Catholic Skin that Cave would go on to write with The Birthday Party but it’s a start and hey, you have to start somewhere.

The Birthday Party - Release The Bats

From 1980's The Birthday Party

This is an instant classic. The screeching youthful tension that probably ignited a little fire in many people’s hearts when they were introduced to Mr Nicholas Cave for the very first time. Release The Bats has become the Birthday Party’s theme tune and alongside Nick The Stripper it’s probably the band’s longest lasting legacy. Still stands, some 30 years later, as one of the most emphatic and confrontational songs ever written.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - From Her To Eternity

From 1984's From Her To Eternity

In 1984 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released their first album From Her To Eternity. It marked a serious stylistic diversion towards lengthy, gothic material that borrowed from rockabilly, blues, punk and for the first time soul music. Cave’s drawled, slurred vocals sit atop clamorous keys and a plethora of instruments. The title track is the first true Bad Seeds collaboration. Written by the whole band it still remains one of the most important and career defining Bad Seeds songs.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Deanna

From 1988's Tender Pray

Deanna was the fourth single in a string of indie hits for Nick Cave and, to be honest, you could pick any of the prior singles – Tupelo, The Singer and The Mercy Seat and stick them here. The point is this is the point where Nick Cave started to get a lot of attention here in the UK. After this point there was only direction for The Bad Seeds and that was up. You only have to listen to Deanna to know that you’re dealing with a songwriting force to be reckoned with.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Red Right Hand

From 1996's Murder Ballads

Most people know this song now as the theme tune to Peaky Blinders but it’s also one of Cave’s most iconic songs. It’s been used in adverts, several film soundtracks (including Dumb and Dumber) and it’s even been turned into a Dr Seuss style kids book by some internet guy. It’s an epic ballad in a folk tradition that really seems to sum up everything that the Bad Seeds are about from this point on: grandeur, eeriness and craft.

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue - Where The Wild Roses Grow

From 1996's Murder Ballads

I couldn’t not include this. It’s the closest Nick Cave has ever come to gracing the top ten in the UK singles chart. Helped, only slightly I reckon, by the presence of ex-Neighbour Kylie Minogue. OK so it’s by no means their best song but it’s certainly a breakthrough moment.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Get Ready For Love

This was actually the first Bad Seeds song I ever really liked. It’s raucous blues rock that strips back the formula and kicks out some serious lo-fi fuzz and yelped vocals. If you’re having trouble “getting it” I’d push you in the direction of Get Ready For Love. It’s a perfectly pitched, perfectly produced stab into the very bluesiest parts of Cave’s catalogue. It’s great. And that’s from a person who categorically scoffs at the mere mention of any ‘blues’ produced post-1955.

Grinderman - No Pussy Blues

From 2007's Grinderman

Presumably fed up of playing demented blues rock Nick Cave decided to form Grinderman along with three members of The Bad Seeds in 2006 to play some demented blues rock. Well, there’s got to be method in the madness. No Pussy Blues with its spoken word introduction and howled chorus, with its stark, minimal instrumentation is a return to something between The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds. If you haven’t already seen the amazing performance from Grinderman’s ATP performance I strongly recommend it.

Grinderman - Palaces of Montezuma

From 2010's Grinderman 2

Borrowing heavily from Motown, Stax and the heady moods of Nina Simone Palaces of Montezuma is the quintessential Cave-does-soul track. It’s used to brilliant effect at the end of the first series of Luther and it’s possibly the most accessible song Cave had written up to this point. Bold narrative lyrics, a classic love song with a Nick Cave twist.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

From 2013's Push The Sky Away

With the inclusion of a children’s choir and a full orchestral section Push The Sky Away is one of the most subtle, beautiful and moving songs ever written by anyone ever. Not just by Nick Cave. It’s typical of Cave and Ellis’ working relationship to build something as epic and overwrought with melodramatic theatrics and still sound one hundred percent sincere and moving. It’s also one of the most recent songs the pair have written together. No sign of stalemate. No sign of giving up. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds are here to fuckin’ stay.


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