Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - The Boatman’s Call - Review
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critics' view

For their 10th album – and follow-up to the cheery Murder Ballads – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds explored more redemptive qualities. Originally released in 1997, gone were the menacing, troubled tunes of yore; instead, here was a selection of graceful, minimal, melancholic numbers that saw Cave reflect on spirituality, loves past and present, and almost atoning for past indiscretions. These are your actual songs of faith and devotion, and by Cave’s own admission his most personal album to date.

The opener is a modern-day classic. Into My Arms is a love song so perfect you wonder why any other composition of its kind bothers to go up against a ballad that all others should rightfully refer to as ‘Sir’. Cave opens his heart from the outset, the song beginning with the stunning line of "I don't believe in an interventionist God / But I know, darling, that you do". It’s such a gorgeous song that Peaches Geldof even has its lyrics tattooed on her (but don’t let that put you off). It’s also the only Bad Seeds tune you’re likely to hear at a wedding.

His brief dalliance with Polly Harvey, whom he became infatuated with after their Henry Lee duet on Murder Ballads, is referenced on Green Eyes, Black Hair and the more direct West Country Girl. Comparisons with Dylan and – more on the money – Leonard Cohen are no bad things either. The religious motifs of Brompton Oratory, an album highlight, and There Is a Kingdom lend an air of a man coming to terms with his place in the world, with subtle churchy murmurs over drum machines. The Bad Seeds themselves play a blinder, with gentle and sympathetic elegance throughout.

It’s an audacious task trying to pin down the core essentials in The Bad Seeds’ catalogue, as there’s so much of it, but The Boatman’s Call would be labelled a classic in anyone’s canon. No band on their 10th album should have much more to say, but taking this turn for the reflective helped reignite The Bad Seeds and further secured their legacy. It is, in short, brilliant.

Ian Wade
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