Three Imaginary Girls

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Today, Tuesday, April 6, 2010, Mute Records is re-releasing three of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ albums from my one of favorite periods — between the rawness of his post-Birthday Party years and before a certain formula set in with some follow up records. Above is a promotional short film for background.

Tender Prey, The Good Son, and Henry’s Dream were full of daring, unique gems but were not accepted with loving arms by some post-punk purists at the time of their release. True fans who had enjoyed Cave’s prose (the novel And the Ass Saw the Angel and his own magazine Witness) found the son of a British English professor examining new avenues of thought in form and content with his Bad Seeds collaborations. Now they’re available again, two discs each, with improved sound and some nice additions from Cave’s secret recording history.

Elements of class war, capital punishment, the perceived dually cruel and loving nature of God, being a misunderstood son of the devil, and more astonishing images ran through Tender Prey, probably my favorite Cave album. It gave the world the madly-paced, mod-blitzkrieg “Deanna,” and Johnny Cash covered the ecstatically-building “The Mercy Seat” (also inspiring bands like Sixteen Horsepower and mood swingers like Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan).

Like all the reissues in this series, the sound is now in surrounding 5.1 (whatever that means, but it fucking rules my iPod now, so hey, it must mean something). Extras on this edition of Tender Prey include a video for “The Mercy Seat,” and rare track “Girl at the Bottom of my Glass.” (Also, those achingly sweet acoustic demos for “Mercy Seat” and two other songs off the original album that surfaced on that essential black box from a few years ago, B-Sides and Rarities.)

The Good Son is in my opinion the most under-appreciated of Cave’s albums with the Bad Seeds. It is one of the deal breakers when I check with fellow dear followers of his output (the other would be the exquisite “The Boatman’s Call”). If you don’t adore his lovingly lazy ass Jack Jones impression on “Foi Na Cruz,” the Jim Morrison-adoring romantic sweep of “The Ship Song,” or the delicious duet with guitarist Blixa on “The Weeping Song,” you’ve chosen the wrong bandwagon. Extras in this package are “The Train Song,” “Cocks ‘n’ Asses,” and a cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless.” The latter two sound particularly interesting right next to each other — sort of the peaks and valleys of the band’s emotional and taste spectrum.

Henry’s Dream was put out in the era of huge alternative rock festivals and Cave and his hard-working cronies rose to the challenge. Multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey is particularly exciting on this back-to-raw-rock release, which begins with “Papa Won’t Leave You Henry” and rages full tilt to “Jack The Ripper.” My favorite track is “When I First Came To Town” which was written after Cave had spent three years listening to Karen Dalton while driving around Brazil trying to shake off a spellbound affair, basing its title on the first line to her version of sordid standard “Katie Cruel.” This one has the most extras, including a long-lusted after out of print live EP generously added on to second disc.

I can’t endorse the Mute reissues of the Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds oeuvre enough, and this troika is the one I’ll treasure most.