The next three installments (Nocturama; Abattoir Blues / Lyre of Orpheus; Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!) in Mute’s superbly remastered Nick Cave catalog are out and they are every bit as good as the eleven other reissues in the series, which is to say, they are very, very good indeed. I can think of few major artists who have had their catalog so lovingly and exhaustively buffed and polished as Cave’s. Then again, so few artists have such extensive back catalogs so richly deserving of this treatment…
Mute’s Nick Cave re-issues, like their fantastic Depeche Mode remasters from a few years back, simply set the standard for wondrefully realized archival releases and they are a terrific value for the money. Each 2-disc set contains a CD and DVD featuring crazy good 5.1 surround mixes (choice of DTS or Dolby Surround), b-sides (in 5.1 also) music videos and an installment of “Do You Love Me (Like I Love You)” the multi-part documentary by longtime Cave collaborators Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard that now spans across all fourteen albums.
I am loath to really try to “review” anything by an artist the caliber of Nick Cave, because after such a long and legendary career, fuck it, everyone’s made up their minds about him and his music. Like many of you reading this, I’m a huge Nick Cave fan. I’ve got all of his albums, the soundtracks. his books, etc, etc. I’ve seen him read twice and I’ve seen him play live more times that I can remember. Nearly every single time, I’ve been in the front row. (I even had an odd encounter with him when I was a teenager that I recount here).
I’m such a big Nick Cave fan that when his Kicking Against the Pricks covers album came out on CD, that was the decisive factor when I decided to actually buy a CD player in the first place (back when they were still really expensive) my logic being “Wow, if this sounds so good on my Walkman, it must sound amazing on one of those new CD things.” The whole concept of “high fidelity” opened up to me via that album (and Marc Almond’s Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters, which also sounds great).
I mention all this, because my standards are high as far as Nick Cave’s music goes, I know it especially well, and because I’m more concerned to answer this consumer-type question for you: “Is this worth buying again if I already own it?” than I am boring you with my opinion on the music.
The answer to that question is “yes,” they are definitely worth buying, especially if you have a 5.1 surround/home theater audio set-up. And yes, I realize that we’re talking about three albums that came out not all that long ago. Should you really re-purchase a CD that you bought within the last 4 years?
I still say yes. For a few reasons, but mainly because of the 5.1 surround mixes. If that prospect doesn’t really excite you, you won’t care about the rest of this, but if you are intrigued, read on…
The most recent of the trio, 2008’s incendiary Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! is, for me, not only one of the best albums Nick Cave has put out in years, but one of the best Bad Seeds albums period. It’s a fucking amazing album, but it already sounded great in 2008. In fact, all of the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ records sound amazing. They’re a group well-known for having especially good sounding albums in audio geek circles. Is it that much better than the version from just four years ago?
I think it is. The 5.1 surround mix of Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! is so rowdy and unkempt and assaults you with such a force. that if you love that album like I love that album, it will positively knock your socks off. Don’t get me wrong, the stereo CD sounds just fine, too, the album is a great, hairy, roaring BEAST… but when you hear it in the spatially enhanced surround mix, that great beast jumps out of your speakers and grabs you right by the fucking throat. The guitars sear your flesh like a cattle brand. The drums crack your skull against the wall and the bass stomps all over your face. It draws blood.
If you love that album like I love that album, don’t hesitate to buy it again. It really is that much better. It’s fucking great. Seriously, it’s fucking great.
The reasons why I’d buy the other two, Nocturama and the twinned Abattoir Blues / Lyre of Orpheus. are, well, less enthusiastically stated—neither album is something I’d grab when I want to listen to Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds—but I still would buy them. The first reason would simply be to have the whole set, ‘cos I’m like that, and secondarily because I had the occasion to revisit two albums that I didn’t really give all that much attention to when they first came out.
As a result of spending more time with Nocturama and the attendant installment of Forsyth and Pollard’s documentary, I now see it as the album when Cave’s lyrics begin to shift a bit towards the more self-consciously “modern” wordplay of the decidedly 21st century work on display in the Grinderman albums and Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!! Musically, it’s not a bad album, but it’s treading water. I came away from listening to the new version still thinking that the fiery 15-minute-long “Babe, I’m On Fire” was the best track.
Abattoir Blues / Lyre of Orpheus, too, I am able to appreciate much more now than when it came out. Due to the entire immersive multimedia package that Mute put together (two CDs and a DVD), it does feel like perhaps I was the one missing out on this one. It’s a really good album, but it still feels a bit overlong. After spending more time with it, it’s definitely gone up in my estimation (I felt the same about Henry’s Dream) although like I said, still not an album that I’d grab if I wanted to hear a recent Nick Cave & The Bad Seed album. It’s just not one of their very best, like Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! is.
Which brings up the obvious question: When are the re-vamped Grinderman albums in 5.1 surround sound coming out?
Below, the music video for “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. Incidentally, something about the title track that I already suspected was confirmed by the documentary on the DVD, that the Lazarus/“Larry” of the lyrics had something to do with New York-based author Larry “Ratso” Sloman who authored a book on Houdini (discussed in the lyrics also) and who is friends with Cave. If you know Ratso, a legendary New York character and man about town, the song is even better when you imagine that Cave is singing about him as the Biblical Lazarus reborn again in New York City: