Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
The Firstborn Is Dead


4.5
superb

Review

by lz41 USER (39 Reviews)
February 6th, 2015 | 22 replies


Release Date: 1985 | Tracklist


“Nobody wanted to make a blues record. So we made a record that was steeped in the blues but didn’t really have anything to do with the blues on a musical level,” Nick Cave recalled of the Bad Seeds’ second album in 2008.

The Firstborn is Dead is an achievement as remarkable as it was ambitious. The idea of an Australian post-punk group recording an introspection of the Deep South in 1985 wasn’t as far-fetched as it would seem today, with Led Zeppelin’s blues-derivatives a reassuring precedent. Still, it seemed a risky goal given the easy iconography that the South offered. Observers in the Bad Seeds’ Berlin studios must have wondered if these skinny Aussie punks were stepping into unattainable territory.

Working in the band’s favour was the geographical distance that they could use to distinguish their writing. Cave and Mick Harvey, refugees from the break-up of The Birthday Party, were Australian while Barry Adamson was British and Blixa Bargeld, nicked from Einstürzende Neubauten, was German. They were all capable multi-instrumentalists and in Cave they had the baddest cat in Australian music. He was about to establish himself as the country’s finest songwriter as well. Firstborn’s language came out of the notebook Cave had built up in Berlin. He showed uncharacteristic restraint, allowing him to pack more into single images like “death-writ”, “burden” and “black rain” than he would manage in his later death obsessed songs.

The band was determined to sidestep ‘traditional’ blues sounds and structures in order to explore and recreate blues mythology. ‘Tupelo’ and ‘Wanted Man’ aside, each song here is tangled, lean and sparse even when the volume gets cranked up. Cave’s plantation hollers amid chain gang chants on ‘Black Crow King’ absorb the fear and oppression of John Lee Hooker or Charley Patton as the sound avoids familiarity.

“I was reading a lot of William Faulkner and these southern American writers,” explained Cave. For ‘Wanted Man’, you can add Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash to that list. The tale of a gunslinger running out of places to hide and ready to shoot out the Devil is a romanticisation of the South’s violent origins. There is also a sense of order – of the actions, necessities and tough simplicities of badland life – that Cormac McCarthy readers could pick up in ‘Knockin’ on Joe’ and the frantic ‘Train Long Suffering.’

Cave began writing the novel ‘And The Ass Saw The Angel’ during the recording of ‘Blind Lemon Jefferson’ as a tribute to the titular ‘father of the Texas blues.’ That song, ironically, is Cave’s most back seated performance. What is instead tangible is the swampy midnight tension and silent heat in Adamson’s ominous bass and Bargeld’s greasy, ghostly slide guitar.

Then there was the terrifying ‘Tupelo’, the band’s most epic creation to date: over Adamson’s brutal loop and Harvey’s relentless, tribal drum attack, Cave summoned his most savage vocal, linking the 1936 tornado attacks on the south eastern town Tupelo to the birth of Elvis. The simultaneous uncontrollable destruction and legendary creation is typical of The Firstborn is Dead, an album that dared to not only recreate the blood lines of rock ’n roll but do so by reduction and deconstruction.



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user ratings (162)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Veldin
February 6th 2015


2730 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sweet review, pos'd. Love Bad Seed's first four (not including Kicking Against the Pricks) LPs, but

I can't decide which of that era was their best.

Digging: King Crimson - Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind

CaptainAaarrrggghhh
February 6th 2015


374 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Most would probably say it's Tender Prey

SmersH
February 6th 2015


447 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Love this album... wish he'd play more than Tupelo live though... be awesome to here Knockin on Joe in concert. Good review!

osmark86
July 22nd 2016


5334 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Tupelo is such a fucking majestic song. To those who haven't heard it, shame. Shame.

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

Rowan5215
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2016


36313 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I don't like this all that much but Tupelo is one of the best songs ever written

osmark86
July 22nd 2016


5334 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeh that song stands out like a boner in a church.

Rowan5215
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2016


36313 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

now there's an expression for the books. and yeah, nothing else on here comes close

osmark86
July 22nd 2016


5334 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That's the truth. I think these guys just got better and better. Their 90s albums are incredible works of art and the latest was one of my favs of that year. Can't wait for the new one.

Rowan5215
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2016


36313 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

they're incredibly consistent for sure. I think Push the Sky Away, Let Love In and No More Shall We Part are my three favourites and they're all in different decades! no other group I know has pulled off something like that

osmark86
July 22nd 2016


5334 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Those are all excellent albums for sure. Stay classy Rowan.

Rowan5215
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2016


36313 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

you got it!





(just keep on pushing just keep on pushing and push the sky away)

osmark86
July 22nd 2016


5334 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Them feels. Aight time to smack the sack.

NeroCorleone80
September 11th 2016


33848 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Overall I slightly prefer From Her to Eternity, but Tupleo is Cave's best song

Digging: Nina Nastasia - Run to Ruin

BigPleb
September 11th 2016


47407 Comments


Excited to begin my Cave journey.

Thanks to Skeleton Tree.

Digging: Every Time I Die - Low Teens

NeroCorleone80
September 11th 2016


33848 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Have fun. Check The Birthday Party too. Junkyard is like the Fun House of the 80s

BigPleb
September 11th 2016


47407 Comments


Is Cave as consistent as the avgs suggest?

NeroCorleone80
September 11th 2016


33848 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

More or less. I prefer his earlier stuff way more though, but thats just me.

BigPleb
September 11th 2016


47407 Comments


Sweet, cheers man.

porcupinetheater
September 11th 2016


1891 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

He's absolutely as consistent as the rating suggest it. Tupelo off this record's one of the best tracks all time

Digging: The Ghost of a Thousand - This Is Where The Fight Begins

NeroCorleone80
September 11th 2016


33848 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Best song Cave ever wrote



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