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From Cave to Eternity: The Bad Seeds Ranked

One week ago, I decided it was time to run through Nick Cave’s entire discography chronologically. I have been familiar with the band for some time now, but was always a bit intimidated about tackling 16 albums in a row. Along the way, I thought I’d stretch my fingers a bit and provide commentary regarding my experience and take on the difficult task of creating a ranking. I touch on this a bit below, but this isn’t meant to be some definitive ranking and I understand some of the choices will be met with negative reactions, but that’s okay by me. Truth be told my ratings shift and favorites generally change. Hell, the last 3-4 albums are almost interchangeable given the day. I mostly undertook this project to shed some light on the masterful discography of the Bad Seeds and to become more familiar myself. Anyhow, without further adieu, I present my (loose and ridiculous, but heartfelt) ranking of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds:
32Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

Nocturama 2.5/5

Released: 2003

The summary for the featured review of this album on Sputnik reads, “Nick Cave kicks drugs, gets a hair cut and produces an average album,” and I can’t help but agree with that sentiment. The album is so uninspired it hurts. Cave is even on record saying that the recording was rushed and it shows. There are several good ideas bogged down by a lack of exploration lyrically and instrumentally. The opener shows promise early with its nice bass line and melodies, but ultimately goes nowhere.
31Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

The closer could have been a 3-minute riot but it ends up being 14- yes, FOURTEEN- minutes long of the same thing over and over again. Whether the pitfalls of this album had to do with Cave’s sobriety or not, one can only speculate, but for such a listless album it sure sticks out like a sore thumb when you look at the rest of The Bad Seeds’ work. In an interview, after briefly discussing the critique of this album, Cave went on to say that while Nocturama is important to him, “You can’t trust an artist that just makes good records.” Fair enough.

Favorite Tracks: Uhhhhhhhh…. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh……
30Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Kicking Against The Pricks

Kicking Against the Pricks 3/5

Released: 1986

As you may or may not know, this is a cover album and thus also feels a bit out of place in when looking at the bands’ discography. Having not heard most of the original versions, this may not be getting the credit it deserves from me. But, while the band is able to cover an array of different sounds and make them all their own, only a few tracks here stand out to me as several just kind of exist. The band may have had a great time recording tributes to some of their favorite artists in their own style, but I don’t feel it translates well in the scope of the rest of their more successful material. I’ll go through and listen to some of the original version for context at some point, but this isn’t really a favorite as-is.

Favorite Tracks: Long Black Veil, The Hammer Song, Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart
29Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Your Funeral... My Trial

Your Funeral… My Trial 3/5

Released: 1986

If the fourth album from Cave & Co. isn’t a bit of a step back compared to From Her To Eternity and The Good Son, it certainly isn’t much of a step forward. Your Funeral… My Trial is another somber collection of stories and musings from Nick that has several memorable and fantastic lyrics laid over a mostly-mellow backdrop. At times the album feels sleepy and at other times it feels exhaustive, but overall it feels like it is lacking in creating its own identity. The title track is one of a few songs on the tracklist that feels memorable and likely because it is the album’s namesake The rest feel like they could be a b-side to any album the band recorded prior to this one; the album isn’t bad, but it surely isn’t among the best.

Favorite Tracks: Your Funeral My Trial, Jack’s Shadow, Hard On For Love
28Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Murder Ballads

Murder Ballads 3/5

Released: 1996

I know, I know. Murder Ballads. The great macabre collection of ballads about, well, murder. This album is a favorite for many, but I am not heading into this low ranking with an apology and here is why: During my discography run, this was the first album that didn’t really feel like a Bad Seeds album and not for the better. The features and collaborations almost make Murder Ballads feel more crowded than varied.
27Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Murder Ballads

The trio of Henry Lee, Lovely Creature, and Where the Wild Roses Grow is, to put it bluntly, just unfortunate and if I liked Bob Dylan more I might call the closer, a cover of Death is Not the End, a poor and fruitless group effort. I respect the band- Cave especially- for setting aside their egos to let the likes of PJ Harvey, Kylie Minogue and Shane MacGowan shine, but those moments specifically fall flat for me and put a fair-sized damper on an otherwise enjoyable product.

Favorite Tracks: Stagger Lee, The Curse of Millhaven, Crow Jane, O’Malley’s Bar
26Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Skeleton Tree

Skeleton Tree 3/5

Released: 2016

Hate to shit in your Cheerios two times in a row, but here we are. Skeleton Tree bothers me for a couple of reasons, some of which I will admit may be petty. Let’s get those out of the way first. Ahem. This album got way more attention here than any of their others and I’ll come right out and say that the interest was developed for questionable reasons. The tragic death of Cave’s son prior to the release of this album put him in the spotlight and certainly increased the anticipation for this release; we couldn’t wait to put a microscope to the emotional impact of Cave’s loss. And people marveled at this. People waxed poetically about the grief on display. The funny thing is that most of this was written and recorded prior to his son’s death, with some amended lyrics here and there afterward.
25Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Skeleton Tree

None of this grief and pain and heartbreak feels new whatsoever if you’re at all familiar with the Bad Seeds. Cave had been bearing his tortured soul in one form or another for over 30 fucking years, it just took his son dying for people to care and that’s a damn shame. To further annoyance, Skeleton Tree received critical acclaim where I find it to be barely above average with a 4 –song run that ranges from bland to blabbering to borderline bullshit. I’m not saying this album is void of good songs; it isn’t. I’m also not saying that nobody genuinely enjoys this record; how could I know that? But, I feel like the focus was all wrong here and the idea that one man’s loss may have the power to turn a piece of sheet cake into a bar of gold is bothersome. So, there.

Favorite Tracks: Jesus Alone, Girl in Amber, Skeleton Tree
24Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Tender Prey

Tender Prey 3.5/5

Released: 1988

Tender Prey is the follow up to the lackluster Your Funeral… My Trail that I discussed above and is, interestingly, both a return to form and a step in the right direction. This album is rumored to have been written and recorded around the height of Nick Cave’s heroin addiction and that may lend to the abundance of story-like tracks. Some of these songs land on the very cusp of being incessant rambling, but it works and is a great example of Cave channeling his imagination into a fucking rollercoaster of words. Mick Harvey lending his talents to multiple instruments is also notable and together with the rest of the band, he and Cave were able to carry this album nicely above its predecessor.

Favorite Tracks: The Mercy Seat, Up Jumped the Devil, City of Refuge, Slowly Goes the Night
23Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
From Her To Eternity

From Her To Eternity 3.5/5

Released: 1984

The debut album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is like a lot of debuts in that it has that raw, green quality to it that a band rarely recaptures. Now, I’d argue that the Seeds were able to capture some of the same magic of their debut, but aside from its successor, this style typically appears in splashes or in a track here or there. Notably, the lyrics on this album are some of my favorite from Cave.
22Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
From Her To Eternity

Cabin Fever gives a nice foreshadow for the kind of longing heartbreak that rears its head repeatedly throughout the band’s catalog, Saint Huck is a great example of the somewhat biblical and fable-like storytelling for which Nick Cave is famous, and Wings Off Flies captures that signature weirdness that has been with the band ever since. From Her to Eternity isn’t a perfect debut, but it definitely paved the way for what was to come and its authentic gloom has won me over.

Favorite Tracks: Avalanche, Cabin Fever, From Her to Eternity, Wings off Flies
21Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
The Firstborn Is Dead

The Firstborn is Dead 3.5/5


The sophomore album from the band is an interesting one that has only grown on me over time. Having read (somewhat-recently) Cave’s bat-shit crazy Southern Gothic novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, I revisited this album with a completely different perspective. Cave started writing that novel the same year this album came out and, unsurprisingly, they share similar themes.
20Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
The Firstborn Is Dead

In fact, what might be most impressive to me is how both pieces of work are able to take me to the same dark, dirty, ex-fucking-hausting mental space though being completely different mediums. After Tupelo, I find myself slowly dying in the dry heat, waiting, fucking PRAYING! for it to rain while the soundtrack of my inevitable doom carries on and on and on. Unfortunately, most of these songs tend to drag a bit, nearly outstaying their welcome and that is the album's main fault. But, when I close my eyes and think about the tragic Euchrid Eucrow, it makes the drawn out sonic pain worth the stay.

Favorite Tracks: Tupelo, Black Crow King, Wanted Man, Blind Lemon Jefferson
19Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
The Good Son

The Good Son 4/5

Released: 1990

If I had to pinpoint a turning point in the band’s career, the moment where they went from great to excellent, it would be 1990’s The Good Son. This album successfully blends the groups’ brash attitude with swooning sadness and triumph seamlessly, where previous output often had these elements separated track by track or even by album. The band managed to hit nearly every emotion in the spectrum with a supreme nonchalance, which is an achievement in itself. But, the real highlight here is the consistency in the songwriting. The Good Son doesn’t have peaks and valleys so much as it has a nice plateau. The good news is that you immediately reach said plateau when the album kicks off and instead of the ride ever getting stale, you get to gallop along the ridges and enjoy the view below.

Favorite Tracks: Foi Na Cruz, The Good Son, The Weeping Song, The Ship Song, The Hammer Song
18Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
The Boatman's Call

The Boatman’s Call 4/5


This album came out a year after Murder Ballads and it is definitely in the same vein with an abundance of somber piano, but with a filthy kind of romance dancing with heartbreak in the air. The Boatman’s Call is essentially everything I like about Murder Ballads but done much, much better. All that Cave passion that I felt was overshadowed by guest appearances & collaborations the last time out comes bubbling to the surface resulting in an album loaded nearly front-to-back with ballads that feel genuine and natural. Sure, there are a few songs that don’t demand your undivided attention, but there are just as many that will have your jaw slack and eyes wide. This is the crooner we need hitting all the right notes with his voice and his fingers. This is Billy Joel, but good- no, great! Billy Joel, but GREAT!

Favorite Tracks: Into My Arms, Lime Tree Arbour, People Ain’t No Good, Black Hair, Idiot Prayer
17Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! 4/5

Released: 2008

This may be the most accessible album in the band’s discography and it is accessible in a way that doesn’t feel like they were trying to broaden their appeal so much as they just spent a lot of this album exploring a more straight forward approach to rock and roll. The album has more ‘choruses’ than usual, often repeating little lines here and there, giving some of the songs a more traditional structure than you typically hear from the Bad Seeds.
16Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!

Moments like the encouraging chant in the title track, Janie’s declaration for ‘having a real cool time tonight,’ in Today’s Lesson, and the repeated command of Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl) are as infectious as Cave gets and will have these songs rolling around in your head for days. The way this album plays out actually reminds me of a movie and though No News From Nowhere isn’t my favorite Bad Seeds closer, it is a perfectly cozy way of moseying the album on and out of your ears like credits rolling at the end of a film. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is a very fine album. Come for the freak show and stay for the jams.

Favorite Tracks: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!, Moonland, We Call Upon the Author, Hold On To Yourself, Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl)
15Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Push The Sky Away

Push The Sky Away 4.5/5

Released: 2013

Five years following Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!, Push the Sky Away doesn’t come flying out of the gates at all. This album is the slowest burn of the band’s career and the execution is astounding. It feels like the first couple of tracks are tip-toeing toward something more- something big and loud. And they are, it just takes a while to get there. In the meantime we are treated to a wonderful tour of relaxing little beats and absolutely scrumptious string work by the mastermind Warren Ellis. Jubilee Street and Mermaids are obvious standouts and it almost feels like we get a little break with We Real Cool and Cave’s narrative track regarding the writing of Jubilee Street, just before hitting what may be the Bad Seeds’ greatest one-two punch: Higgs Bosom Blues and Push the Sky Away.
14Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Push The Sky Away

Higgs Bosom Blues is another slow burner, but with an immediately striking tone. As the track moves along we are treated to a vintage Cave sermon, delivered in a way in which only he could capitalize; before you know what has hit you the song reveals it has been a towering, monolithic testament to the blues the whole time just before crawling to a halt. The remaining, eponymous track may be the best closer in the band’s catalog. Push the Sky Away is a devastatingly beautiful piece of hope presented in the most ethereal but desolate manner possible. It feels like Cave is telling you that this is all he has and that he won’t stop, that he can’t- that if he does, there will be no meaning left. To hear this 30+ years into their career, and so elegantly, is inspiring to say the least but equally crushing if I’m being honest.

Favorite Tracks: Jubilee Street, Mermaids, Higgs Bosom Blues, Push the Sky Away
13Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Let Love In

Let Love In 4.5/5

Released: 1994

Let Love In is where I think the band hit their stride with their musical direction. Forget Skeleton Tree, this is the best starting point for anyone curious about Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds as it is the best overall representation of their sound. It has piano-led ballads with that perfect croon. It has brash rock songs slathered in organs and tasty backing vocals; looking at you, Loverman. It has the signature story-telling of Cave (even if I’m not a fan of Jangling Jack). It has it all, baby! This also feels like the first album where the listener really gets a glimpse at real life Nick Cave as opposed the one we’ve seen time and time again masking his feelings behind a fictional narrative. Nobody’s Baby Now and the slow rocker Lay Me Low feel like a more honest take on the mindset and psyche of the master himself.
12Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Let Love In

The title track contains some of Cave’s best lyrics; a poem about having to take the good with the bad if you want to take anything at all; another testament from Cave that love is a motherfucker. The album is also home to one of the band’s most popular songs, Red Right Hand, which takes its name from John Milton’s Paradise Lost and appropriately deals with the subject of vengeance of the divine variety. This track can be heard in the fantastic Duane Berry episode of The X-Files, as the opening for TV series Peaky Blinders, the Scream movie franchise (with an alternate version in the third film), and oddly enough is also in the comedy classic, Dumb and Dumber. Anyway, whether you’re crying in your beer to Ain’t Gonna Rain Anymore or if you just threw back 4 shots of whiskey during Thirsty Dog, Let Love In is a Cave fan’s delight.

Do You Love Me? (Parts 1 & 2), Loverman, Red Right Hand, Ain’t Gonna Rain Anymore, Lay Me Low
11Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus

Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus 4.5/5

Released: 2004

Being a double album, it’s no surprise that Abattoir / Lyre is the longest Bad Seed’s record. What is surprising, however, is how quickly the album goes by. The album is digestible enough to take in over one sitting, which is how I would recommend listening to it. I’d liken it to going to see a movie in the afternoon and coming out of the theater to an evening sky; it’s almost like a time loss, but a fucking good one where all your memories stay in-tact; like a full-fledged, luscious dream where you have built a whole new fantasy world in your own private garden of Eden and can remember every petal on every flower, every molecule of air, every….. I digress.
10Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus

Clocking in just above 80 minutes, the band wastes no time grabbing your attention with a romp of a track in Get Ready For Love which feels a bit like a preview of 2008’s Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! The slower moments on the album never feel dull; there is a specific energy and atmosphere at work here that envelopes you and keeps you at the edge of our seat waiting with baited breath for what is to come. The lyrics on this monster are absolutely stellar through and through, with Cave’s vocal performance alternating between a ball of energy and an unassuming, cool-as-a-cumber kind of swagger that the rest of the band compliments perfectly, with patient percussion and fuzzy bass lines.
9Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus

I know I just got done raving about the closer on Push the Sky Away, but the final track on Abattoir Blues/ Lyre of Orpheus, O Children, may just have the edge for me. The gentle acoustic guitar, the passionate piano, and a building buzz from the band set up the perfect canvas to go out on. Between a crooning Nick Cave and next-level backing vocals, O Children is a soaring epic finale to one of the best rock albums of the 2000’s.

Favorite Tracks: Get Ready For Love, Cannibal’s Song, There She Goes, My Beautiful World, Abattoir Blues, Easy Money, Supernaturally, O Children
8Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
No More Shall We Part

No More Shall We Part 5/5

Released: 2001

I’ve always really enjoyed this album, but upon revisiting the entire Bad Seeds discography, this one reached new heights for me. It left a deep, deep dent; filled my stomach with weights and pushed me overboard. Every facet of the Seeds’ game is elevated here, with the songwriting at an absolute peak. Aside from the remarkable bass performances there is hardly any guitar work on this album, leaving ample room for everyone else to shine. There is an abundance of piano, perfectly placed backing vocals, and an absolutely beautiful display of strings courtesy of Warren Ellis, of whom I believe puts on the finest performance of his career. Cave even steps it up on this album, often reaching a higher register than on prior output. You can feel the blood, sweat, and tears of every member poured into this album as their unadulterated passion exudes from each and every track.
7Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
No More Shall We Part

It is notable that the gap between this and its predecessor was the largest for the band at that point in their career as Cave had taken a dangerous dive into alcohol and heroin. But even with the extended break, No More Shall We Part follows up The Boatman’s Call perfectly while simultaneously leaving it in the dust- and that’s saying a lot. The opener is a stone cold classic with a piano lead like no other. Hallelujah is nothing if not touching. Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow will force you to move. Before The Sorrowful Wife explodes, it gives you the desperate feeling that you need to tell your partner just how much you love them the very next chance you get. The entirety of No More Shall We Part is a relentless assault on everything ugly in the world and a celebration of everything beautiful; it can more simply be summed up as a masterpiece of modern music.

Favorite Tracks: As I Sat Sadly By Her Side, Hallelujah, Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow, The Sorrowful Wife
6Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Henry's Dream

Henry’s Dream 5/5

Released: 1992

Let’s go over a little disclaimer before we begin this last bit, shall we? Is this the BEST Nick Cave album? Probably not. Is it my favorite of them all? You bet your ass it is. I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you that Henry’s Dream, a sort of one-off rock ’n’ roll barnburner, is the absolute, definite, no-fuckin’-arguing-it best album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. That’s not why I’m here. That isn’t what this is about at all.
5Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Henry's Dream

In fact, if you’ve made it this far down this fat list, or even if you just scrolled straight down it to see what stupid and obviously incorrect choice that some Sputnik user made, you probably already noticed that the list overall is a contentious one. So, if you’ve been formulating your own opinions and counter-arguments all the while shaking your head, well, keep on shaking it bud, because favorites die hard. No, I can’t imagine a group of Cave fans in a room coming to a peaceful agreement for even a top-3 ranking of their work and that’s what is fun about this band and talking about them together.
4Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Henry's Dream

Anyway, a little story for you: The first time I ever heard the Bad Seeds was probably 7 or 8 years ago. I had been getting more into singer-songwriters and someone online mentioned Cave as a sort of god. So, I raised up the old mast and hit the digital high seas and made the rookie mistake of just downloading their Greatest Hits circa 1998. I made a playlist on my iPod Classic of all the singer-songwriters I had added to my collection and shuffled away. At some point Straight To You came on, and by the time they hit the chorus, I skipped to the next random track and promptly removed the album from my library.
3Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Henry's Dream

Fast forward 6 years or so and, to appease the constant pushing of a new friend (thank you, btw), I revisit Cave- this time armed with a handful of song recommendations from across their large discography. When I finally got to Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry, I didn’t even skip to the next recommended track- I just let it ride and fell in love. It didn’t even matter that the dorky song from my past followed I Had a Dream, Joe or that the transition from Brother, My Cup is Empty to Christina the Astonishing was completely jarring. Nope. I knew I had something special. By the time the album closed with Jack the Ripper (of whom I’d just read about, a la Alan Moore’s From Hell) I just wanted to play the album again.
2Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Henry's Dream

Henry’s Dream is the audio equivalent of getting punched through a set of saloon doors and landing on a crowded card table. It is being picked up by the hair on the back of your head and having your face slammed down and dragged through seemingly endless pints of beer and shot glasses the length of the bar. This is drinking warm, shitty whiskey out of a dirty glass until dawn and taking on any comer that looks at you the wrong way. It is waking up in the dirt outside because of the heat, with two shiners, finding you’ve pissed your jeans and can spit blood through newfound gaps in both your rows of teeth.
1Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Henry's Dream

Put more simply, this album is a god damned good fucking time. Oh, and there are some breaths in there, too; couple changes of pace, some great story-telling and all that- I just got excited is all. Henry’s Dream is its own thing and it feels like lightning in a bottle. You get glimpses of this style here and there, but most of the rage and sneer is piled up in this album that’s why I love it. I don’t know who Henry is, but his dreams are fucked up and I like his style.

Favorite Tracks: Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry, I Had A Dream, Joe, Brother, My Cup Is Empty, John Finn’s Wife, Loom of the Land, Jack the Ripper
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