After repeated listenings, this remains one of my favorite albums of the past decade. It is strange, bizarre, dark, and sometimes utterly perverse, but somehow or other Cave has produced an album of great beauty and power. The premise is as the title would lead one to imagine: Cave collects nine songs somehow associated with murder. But the sheer variety of songs about murder is quite amazing. You find the comic as in "The Curse of Millhaven," the darkly nightmarish as in ironically titled "Song of Joy" (ironic because it tells the story of a man who has had his family killed by a serial killer) and the quietly tragic as in the beautiful "Where the Wild Roses Grow." Cave does his own version of the most famous murder ballad ever written, "Stagger Lee," his version incorporating only the nastiest and more prurient elements traditionally associated with the song. Finally, in the epic "O'Malley's Bar," Cave serves up a strange tale in which a man who is either insane or utterly amoral slaughters all the people in a bar, while he stops to admire himself in the bar's mirrors.
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.