Nick Cave’s 30 best songs

As chosen by his Bad Seeds and Grinderman bandmates, famous fans including Guy Garvey, Richard Hawley and Bobby Gillespie, and Cave himself…

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30 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
From the Bad Seeds album, Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus (September 2004)
Cave’s only song thus far to reference “wisteria”. This song about love found at a flower show was given polished, poppy backing from the Bad Seeds, somehow reminiscent of Cockney Rebel’s “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)”.

ROBERT FORSTER (The Go-Betweens): I like this song because it plays against type. There is some “ordinary slaughter” and “routine atrocity” in the first verse, but this is only to set up an ideal of beauty, which Nature Boy spies in the female form on his wanderings through a flower show in the following verse. Maybe because the melody suggested ‘pop song’, there is a lightness to the lyric, and some very funny and well written self-mockery in the portrait the singer makes of himself in relationship to his loved one. Some people have Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds as black; with murder, Victorian drama, and the Bible at the front. ‘Nature Boy’ is another in a run of songs that go back through the band’s catalogue – including ‘Breathless’, ‘Lime Tree Arbour’, ‘The Ship Song’ and ‘Sad Waters’ – that show the band and its chief songwriter are also at their best when making music with a softer touch.”



29 The Birthday Party
From the Birthday Party EP, “Mutiny!” (November 1983)
Mysterious gothic narrative concerning a woman “who drew the curtains on her face/Ever since they came and burnt the old place down…”

Bobby Gillespie, Primal Scream: “I have good memories of listening to this in my girlfriend’s bedroom back in Scotland, maybe just before the Mary Chain. She had all the Birthday Party records. We used to listen to ‘The Bad Seed’ and ‘Mutiny!’ EPs a lot. ‘Jennifer’s Veil’ is a strange, beautiful song, quite dark and mysterious. And also it’s unlike anything else The Birthday Party did. A lot of their songs had stuttering rhythms and this had a quite gentle, almost psychedelic feel to it. It’s a weird little song. The lyrics are quite abstract, they don’t really tell the whole story of what’s happening. There’s just little fractured images and you have to use your imagination to make up the rest.”


28 Grinderman
From Grinderman 2 (September 2010). Released as a single: August 2010.
The new Grinderman single, and an example of Cave’s quest to break from narrative songwriting into something more impressionistic. The scene: a bath, wherein a young woman is confronted by her unconscious urges.


NICK CAVE: “I love this song, and I’m really pleased with the lyric. It was taken away and worked on quite a lot after the fact. But the essence of that song is kind of a riffing and an ad lib on the idea of a girl in a bath – being kind of raped by the monsters of her subconscious. She’s the innocent trembling on adult-hood – that was the theme. And I’m really pleased about where that went because it’s obscure, magical and non-narrative enough to keep you interested. You don’t have to sit there and follow the narrative. It becomes part of the song itself. I feel I’m getting to some simpler, truer place with a song like that.”


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