|1. Song Of Joy|
|2. Stagger Lee|
|3. Henry Lee|
|4. Lovely Creature|
|5. Where The Wild Roses Grow|
|6. The Curse Of Millhaven|
|7. The Kindness Of Strangers|
|8. Crow Jane|
|9. O'Malley's Bar|
|10. Death Is Not The End|
So we thought. At closer inspection, Murder Ballads actually stays on a very parodic path, with even the sickest, most gruesome ballads retaining a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Take, for instance, "Stagger Lee," a song too vulgar and twisted to even begin describing in an Amazon.com review, yet I doubt anyone could make it through the song without displaying a wildly goofy grin. "Lee" is a hit (or, more accurately, a PUNCH) that was both a daring and magnificent move for Cave, worth the price of the album alone.
The rest of Murder Ballads holds other surprises as well. Cave's use of female vocalists in several numbers (both in foreground and background) is inspired, especially in "Where the Wild Roses Grow," one of the best and more serious songs on the disc. The dark tale is told with enough haunting recollection to make goose bumps sprout in places you've never imagined.
With all the violent outbursts put forth into Murder Ballads, it was appropriate to end with Dylan's "Death Is Not the End." Here we are given a showcase of all the vocalists in the record, each declaring in their unique style, "Just remember, death is not the end." A word of comfort, perhaps? Hard to say; since Murder Ballads is such a blackly humorous, twisted album to begin with, this last number is almost too cheerful and hopeful, providing quite the opposite effect.Read more ›
There really isn't a weak number on the album, but if there is a touch that truly marks this out as a special album, it is the ironic song that closes the album, a rather obscure Bob Dylan song entitled "Death is not the End."
In retrospect, this album, which summed up all the reflections on death and violence that could be found on Cave's previous albums, took the theme to a level where he had nowhere else to go. In a way, this may have prepared Cave's transition to a more religious perspective. I am reminded of the words someone spoke to J.-K Huysmans after he published AGAINST NATURE: the view of life express in it was so bleak that, his friend said, afterwards the only two options were the church or the noose.
Also, lush and beautiful odes that take one mysteriously beyond the subject matter and into strangely soothing realms. While I did not want to love something I had assumed was glorifying something truly evil, I realized that these songs were as much about sadness, tragedy and psychosis as they were a guilty foray into the darkest fantasy. The songs effectively capture both sides of the coin, something this art form can only usually aspire to.
The memorably haunting and mysteriously lovely collaborations with Kylie and PJ make it worth the price of admission - I just cannot recommend how to wrestle your soul back from the devil!
Nick Cave is truly a strange and brilliant talent. I cannot stay away for long.