Reviewing a ‘Best Of’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ is always a tricky affair. For the most part even the most run of the mill outfit can clobber together enough memorable tunes from their oeuvre to make an emotive connection, or cause involuntary muscle spasm. No, the art of the ‘Greatest Hits’ is in its assembly and presentation, the latter of increased importance in this digitalised age. With Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds being a band for the bookish, fans are in safe hands — the four variations on offer fine collectors items for you audiophiles out there.
While the standard double CD set is a step above your normal jewel case affair, a 24-page booklet of rare photographs included, the faithful out there might us well stump up for the deluxe and super deluxe editions. Both of these versions include an extra disc of music to better represent Cave and co.’s evolution from backcombed bluesy, bastards to ambient balladeers, as well as two-hour collection of videos and interviews to provide a visual history. So, with packaging of the highest order, the question really comes down to the all-important track selection.
Compiled by Nick Cave and founding member Mick Harvey, the three-disc editions offer 45 tracks to explore the thrilling journey of one of the planet’s most uncompromising and enigmatic groups. All your standards are here, the apocalyptic ‘The Mercy Seat’, the sinister ‘Loverman’, in addition to more pretty fair such as ‘Into My Arms’ and ‘Breathless’, the band’s truest pop song to date. What proves most rewarding are the deep cuts, how ‘Stranger Than Kindness’ on reevaluation stands as a spiritual ancestor to later work on 2013’s ‘Push The Sky Away’ or similarly how the groove of ‘Deanna’ reappears in the swaggering ‘Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!.’
As originally intended for release last year, you won’t find anything from the heartbreaking ‘Skeleton Tree’ on this set. ‘Lovely Creatures’ intention was to act as a exploration of 30-plus years of tunes and trials when the group had just embarked on a bold new musical direction. Obviously the cathartic nature of ‘Skeleton Tree’ took precedence, but the delay has done no damage. After all, with their macabre tales of gods, devils and very bad men there is something inherently timeless about The Bad Seeds. No matter what guise they take, and in which manner they choose to do it, Nick Cave and his suited cohorts will explore our darkest impulses with a shit eating grin and boundless confidence.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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