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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14 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
LOVE LETTER
From the Bad Seeds album, No More Shall We Part (April 2001)
Accompanied by an elegant string arrangement, and owing not a little debt to Neil Diamond, this beautiful reconciliation plea comes with bewitching backing vocals from Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

JONATHAN LETHEM (author): “Nick is one of those 12 or 15 unmistakeable voices. You wouldn’t want to hear him sing opera – and I’m not sure what a technical expert would make of his singing – but his voice just breaks time open. It’s so singular and unmistakeable that I’d put him right up there in that way with Dylan or Lucinda Williams or Lou Reed. To listen to him is to know someone unsinkable. I’ve never been a slavish collector of his music, the kind of person who never misses a record, so he’s one of those guys who sneaks up on me again and again. I’ll suddenly hear a Nick Cave song and think, ‘Oh shit, that’s great.’ He’s always a dark horse for me. I adore ‘Love Letter’, it’s so verbal. He’s a great writer as well as a singer. The shattering simplicity of the key phrase is worthy of Shakespeare. And I don’t mean that in a bathetic, if-you’re-looking-to-praise-a-writer-then-reach-for-Shakespeare way, but in addressing the love letter itself as an emissary: ‘Go tell her/Go tell her’. Also worthy of Shakespeare is the verbal trick of using ‘letter’ (l-e-t) and “tell her” (t-e-l). That has a power that any writer would die to harness.”

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13 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
STRANGER THAN KINDNESS
From the Bad Seeds album, Your Funeral… My Trial (November 1986)
Not written by Cave, this Anita Lane/Blixa Bargeld composition is a highpoint of the Your Funeral… My Trial album – a band favourite.

NICK CAVE: “We really hit on something there. We found it really beautiful – to me there’s some really delicate, strange abstracted kinds of songs, that I loved. One of my favourite Bad Seeds songs is ‘Stranger Than Kindness’, which has a kind of unearthly beauty about it, and I think that’s largely because I had nothing to do with writing it. I mean by that I don’t understand it so much, and it remains mysterious to me, and very beautiful – Anita Lane wrote it, and Blixa wrote the music. I really want to say something about Bargeld’s guitar playing, because on those first four records the stuff he was doing was extraordinary. He had this knack of making the guitar sound like anything other than a guitar.”

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