Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Tender Prey


4.5
superb

Review

by Meatplow USER (111 Reviews)
September 6th, 2010 | 115 replies


Release Date: 1988 | Tracklist


Tender Prey is the fifth album by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, released in 1988. It would perhaps signal the culmination of the earliest period of the group, marked by the debt paid to the tumultuous years of Cave's previous post-punk group The Birthday Party but more importantly notable for being released around the height of Cave's heroin addiction. Indeed, the groups first few outings together From Her To Eternity, The Firstborn Is Dead, Kicking Against The Pricks and Your Funeral... My Trial saw a group still trying to find their own unique voice, a melting pot of influences ranging from American folk music, British post-punk and the blues given the black humour treatment through Cave's sardonic writing. It wasn't until Tender Prey the height of this sound would be fully realised, however.

The album feels like a man exorcising all his demons, at times dark and punishing, at others existing in a realm of pure melancholy, sometimes both of these at once. When ex-junkie Cave fans describe Tender Prey as an album they just cannot listen to (take my word for it that I have met at least one), I would certainly be willing to romanticise it in terms of channeling the depth of emotions that come with heroin abuse, at least superficially. The Mercy Seat is a terrifying, confronting start, but observes the story of a man on death row struggling with the reality his situation from an otherwise cathartic eye which feels all the more powerful for it. Up Jumped The Devil seems to almost revel in glee in comparison, with its piano stabs and hazy bassline as Cave seems to play some sort of mad villain figure, talking about how he was doomed from birth to be the bad guy -

"Oh no don't go Oh no
Oh slow down Joe
The righteous path
Is straight as an arrow
Take a walk
And you'll find it too narrow
Too narrow for the likes of me

Who's that hanging from the gallow tree?
His eyes are hollow but he looks like me
"

It's almost cartoonish in a Tom Waits sort of way (speaking of I would kill to hear the man do a version of this) but still an incredibly dark and powerful piece of music for it. Deanna is something of a bouncy rock track, but still it's keys are haunting somehow and Cave's delivery take it to another place which seems to hint at some sort of tragic disappointment through all of it's celebratory nature. Mercy, City of Refuge and Sugar Sugar Sugar are a suitable fusion of the post-punk and folk influences the Bad Seeds were best known for at this point to varying results, but it is Watching Alice and Sunday's Slave which are two underrated highlights for me. The former is a drowsy ballad heavy on piano, the latter a similar affair centered around a strong lyrical hook -

"Tuesday sleeps in a stable
Wednesday's in chains
Tuesday gathers up the crumbs under the table
Wednesday dare not complain
My heart has collapsed on the tracks of a run-a-way train
Just whisper his name
And here comes Sunday's slave
"

The final track New Morning feels like just that, waking up after one of the most depressing experiences of your life, contemplating it, lingering on it, maybe fearing what is to come just a little. A perfect note to go out on, but an unsettling one nonetheless.

Tender Prey is a rough album, and was incredibly difficult to write according to the band. The Mercy Seat itself took dozens of takes and Cave to finish writing his first novel And The Ass Saw The Angel to finalise, and the rest of the album would have been no less challenging. It would mark the end of the first period of The Bad Seeds, that of the "junked-up post-punk period", as the following album The Good Son would feel like a new morning of its own seeing a stronger focus on developing tighter songwriting and discarding angsty, post-punk influences in favour of branching out more into a unique brand of alternative folk music. As it stands though, Tender Prey is one of the most convincing documents of the Bad Seeds early years, a regular fan favourite which is often claimed to be their best album. It is certainly one of their most emotionally draining, that is for sure.



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user ratings (223)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Meatplow
September 6th 2010


5524 Comments


Happy 100th review Meatplow

porch
September 6th 2010


8460 Comments


really good album and review

mercy seat rules

Meatplow
September 6th 2010


5524 Comments


Thanks.

Admittedly I struggled with this one a little, i've spent several times trying to start a review of this but could never find the right words.

Still, thought it would be a fitting 100th review as this album means a lot to me.

NEVERfade
September 6th 2010


376 Comments


Good review I enojoyed it

Meatplow
September 6th 2010


5524 Comments


thanks

did you neg me Bitchfork for my contextual fluff at least I tried to describe the songs here

Blindsided
September 6th 2010


1871 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review.

Lambda
September 6th 2010


2479 Comments


Congrats on 100

Koots
September 6th 2010


48 Comments


solid review and congrats. my friend recommended this after I mentioned The Sisters of Mercy but im not sure there's too many similarities between the two still sounds good though

IAJP
September 7th 2010


378 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

was gonna review this soon, superb it is! well done hazza..

Sabottheory
September 10th 2010


355 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review. I really wanted to love this album, but I'm still missing something...

tomwaits4noman
September 16th 2010


91 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review... intended on reviewing this myself a few months ago... You really captured it well.

Slowly Goes The Night feels out of place on the album, it jars too much from the rest of the album and stops it from being a classic.

Meatplow
September 16th 2010


5524 Comments


You think so? The last half of the album feels pretty uniform to me.

Thanks.

bailar12
September 16th 2010


1766 Comments


posting in a meatplow thread

bailar12
September 16th 2010


1766 Comments


your avatar is lulz right now btw

Meatplow
September 17th 2010


5524 Comments


thanks

tomwaits4noman
September 17th 2010


91 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah other than Slowly Goes The Night which feels to me like it would belong more on The Good Son, it is a very uniform album. The slower softer songs Watching Alice and New Morning work perfect where they are placed. Slowly goes the night ruins the dark atmosphere from Mercy to Sugar Sugar Sugar. Mya its the fact that I really don't like the song. Stops me rating this as a 4

Meatplow
November 17th 2010


5524 Comments


Who's that swinging from the gallow tree?

bungy
September 28th 2011


8843 Comments


Just listened to the mercy seat....oh my god

Meatplow
September 28th 2011


5524 Comments


I really hate the video version and most of the live arrangements of that song, compared to the original it always just feels so neutered

omnipanzer
November 28th 2011


21660 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Really not getting all the love for this guy(s).



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