Murder Ballads

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This article is about the Nick Cave album. For the type of song, see murder ballad.
Murder Ballads
Murderballads.jpg
Studio album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Released February 5, 1996 (UK)
February 20, 1996 (US)
Recorded 1993–1995
Genre Alternative rock[1]
Length 58:43
Label Mute Records
Producer Victor Van Vugt, The Bad Seeds
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds chronology
Let Love In
(1994)
Murder Ballads
(1996)
The Boatman's Call
(1997)

Murder Ballads is the ninth studio album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, released in 1996 on Mute Records. As its title suggests, the album consists of new and traditional murder ballads, a genre of songs that relays the details (and often consequences) of crimes of passion.

"Where the Wild Roses Grow," a duet featuring Cave singing with Kylie Minogue, was a hit single and received two ARIA Awards in 1996. Other prominent guest musicians on the album include PJ Harvey and Shane MacGowan.

Details[edit]

Murder Ballads was the band's biggest commercial success to date, most likely helped by the unexpected repeated airplay of the "Where the Wild Roses Grow" video on MTV. MTV even nominated Cave for their "best male artist" award of that year, though this nomination was later withdrawn at Cave's request.[2] Cave later said, "I was kind of aware that people would go and buy the Murder Ballads album and listen to it and wonder 'What the fuck have I bought this for?' because the Kylie song wasn't any true indication of what the record was actually like."[3]

The first song written for the album was "O'Malley's Bar", when the band was recording Henry's Dream. According to Cave, the idea for the Murder Ballads album came from this song: "We couldn't use 'O'Malley's Bar' on any of our other records. So we had to make a record, an environment where the songs could exist."[4] Recordings were done towards the end of the Let Love In sessions, and there was some thought that the early material could be made into a film with John Hillcoat. Cave said, "I was going around everywhere with letters of intent, pushing them at everyone I knew, saying 'Do you want to be in this film?'"[4]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[1]
Drowned in Sound 8/10[5]
Entertainment Weekly A[6]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[7]
NME 7/10[8]
Pitchfork Media 9.2/10[9]
Q 3/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[11]
Select 5/5[12]
Spin 5/10[13]

Murder Ballads received almost unanimous critical praise. Bill van Parys of Rolling Stone wrote that "never before have manic elements elevated Cave's shtick to art as on Murder Ballads", describing the album as "literate, sultry and tortured" and "the performance of Nick Cave's life."[11] Entertainment Weekly warned that Murder Ballads was "not for the squeamish," calling it "the rare pop record that resonates with the weight of the ages".[6] The New York Times stated "...Murder Ballads is about more than storytelling. In each song, Mr. Cave meticulously creates a macabre fable and then distills it to a single image of death in much the way a photographer arranges a studio shoot..."[14] In the English music press, Q magazine awarded it three stars and observed that "musically, the Bad Seeds touch on tinkling cabaret jazz, country-paced morbidity and every morose station between."[10] Murder Ballads ranked #16 on Melody Maker 's list of 1996's Albums of the Year and #7 in the NME 's 1996 critic's poll.[15][16]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Nick Cave, except where noted.

  1. "Song of Joy" – 6:47
  2. "Stagger Lee" – 5:15 (Traditional, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds)
  3. "Henry Lee" (featuring PJ Harvey) – 3:58 (trad./Cave)
  4. "Lovely Creature" – 4:13 (Blixa Bargeld, Martyn P. Casey, Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Thomas Wydler)
  5. "Where the Wild Roses Grow" (featuring Kylie Minogue) – 3:57
  6. "The Curse of Millhaven" – 6:55
  7. "The Kindness of Strangers" – 4:39
  8. "Crow Jane" – 4:14 (Martyn P. Casey, Nick Cave)
  9. "O'Malley's Bar" – 14:28
  10. "Death Is Not the End" – 4:26 (Bob Dylan)

Singles[edit]

  • "Where the Wild Roses Grow" (MUTE 185) (October 2, 1995)
  • "Henry Lee" (MUTE 189) (February 26, 1996)
    • b/w: "King Kong Kitchee Kitchee Ki-Mi-O" / "Knoxville Girl"

Musicians[edit]

The Bad Seeds[edit]

  • Nick Cave – Vocals (1–10), Piano (1, 5, 8, 9), Organ (1, 2, 4, 6, 10), Hammond (1), Gun Shots (2), String Arrangement (5)
  • Blixa Bargeld – Guitar (1–8, 10), Screams (2), Vocals (10)
  • Martyn P. Casey – Bass (1–5, 7, 8)
  • Mick Harvey – Drums (1), Guitar (2, 4, 5, 7, 10), Acoustic Guitar (3, 5), Organ (3), Wind Organ (4), Backing Vocals (5), String Arrangement (5), Bass (6, 9), Hammond (8), Space Belt (8), Percussion (9)
  • Conway Savage – Piano (2–4, 7, 10), Backing Vocals (5), Organ (9)
  • Jim Sclavunos – Drums (2, 8), Percussion (4, 10), Bells (5), Tambourine (6)
  • Thomas Wydler – Maracas (2), Drums (3–7, 9, 10), Tambourine (8), Vocals (10)

Guests[edit]

  • PJ Harvey – Vocals (3, 10)
  • Terry Edwards – Horns (4)
  • Katharine Blake – Additional Vocals (4)
  • Kylie Minogue – Vocals (5, 10)
  • Jen Anderson – Violin (5)
  • Sue Simpson – Violin (5)
  • Kerran Coulter – Viola (5)
  • Helen Mountfort – Cello (5)
  • Hugo Race – Guitar (6)
  • Warren Ellis – Violin (6), Accordion (6)
  • Marielle Del Conte – Additional Vocals (7)
  • Anita Lane – Crying (7), Vocals (10)
  • Geraldine Johnston – Additional Vocals (8)
  • Liz Corcoran – Additional Vocals (8)
  • Shane MacGowan – Vocals (10)
  • Brian Hooper – Bass (10)

The Moron Tabernacle Choir on "The Curse of Millhaven"[edit]

Songs[edit]

  • "Stagger Lee" is based on a traditional song about the African-American murderer of the same name. Cave's version draws most of the lyrics from a 1967 transcription published in the 1976 book The Life: The Lore and Folk Poetry of the Black Hustler.
  • "Henry Lee" is also based on a traditional song (or two), often referred to as Young Hunting. It is a duet with PJ Harvey, a British rock singer who was in a relationship with Cave at the time.
  • "Where the Wild Roses Grow" was a very popular duet with Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue. Cave says the traditional song "The Willow Garden" (which is a B-side on the "Where the Wild Roses Grow" single) was the song that inspired him to write "Where the Wild Roses Grow".[citation needed]
  • "The Curse of Millhaven" takes place in the fictional town of Millhaven, created by author Peter Straub.
  • "Crow Jane" shares its title with a traditional blues song; Cave's version appears to be entirely original.
  • "Death Is Not the End" is a song featuring several vocalists, such as Anita Lane, Kylie Minogue, PJ Harvey, and Shane McGowan, including Cave himself and his bandmembers drummer Thomas Wydler and guitarist Blixa Bargeld. They each sing a verse in this cover of a Bob Dylan song, the only song in which an actual death does not occur. Cave later described it as, "just kind of a jokey little punctuation mark to the whole thing. There's tongue-in-cheek to that song, even though I think it's quite a beautiful rendition."[4]

Charts and Certification[edit]

Weekly Charts[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Murder Ballads – Nick Cave / Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Nick Cave letter to MTV. nick-cave.com, 21 October 1996. Accessed 28 August 2010.
  3. ^ Dwyer, Michael (July 1998). "Album by Album with Nick Cave". Rolling Stone Australia. No. 550. Sydney, NSW: Tilmond Pty Ltd. p. 41. 
  4. ^ a b c Walker, Clinton (Summer 1995). "Nick Cave Evil's Elder Statesman". Triple J Magazine. No. 1. Sydney, NSW: Gore and Osment. pp. 12–17. 
  5. ^ Kinchin-Smith, Sam (20 May 2011). "Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Let Love In, Murder Ballads, The Boatman's Call, No More Shall We Part (reissues)". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Scherman, Tony (8 March 1996). "Murder Ballads". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  7. ^ Ali, Lorraine (17 February 1996). "Bone-Chilling 'Murder Ballads' From Cave". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  8. ^ Fadele, Dele (3 February 1996). "Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads". NME. Archived from the original on 17 August 2000. Retrieved 12 November 2015. 
  9. ^ Berman, Stuart (25 May 2011). "Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Let Love In / Murder Ballads / The Boatman's Call / No More Shall We Part". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Murder Ballads". Q. No. 114. March 1996. p. 93. 
  11. ^ a b Van Parys, Bill (21 March 1996). "Nick Cave: Murder Ballads". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  12. ^ Collis, Clark (March 1996). "The executioner's songs". Select. No. 69. p. 88. 
  13. ^ Norris, Chris (March 1996). "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Murder Ballads". Spin. Vol. 11 no. 12. pp. 111–12. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  14. ^ New York Times, November 2, 1996, Section 2 pg. 30
  15. ^ NME, December 21–28, 1996, pg. 66-67
  16. ^ Melody Maker, December 21–28, 1996, pg. 66-67
  17. ^ "Australiancharts.com – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads". Hung Medien. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  18. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  19. ^ "Ultratop.be – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  20. ^ "Ultratop.be – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  21. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  22. ^ "Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Murder Ballads" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  23. ^ "Officialcharts.de – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  24. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads". Hung Medien. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  25. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads". Hung Medien. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  26. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads". Hung Medien. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  27. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads". Hung Medien. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  28. ^ "Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  29. ^ "British album certifications – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Murder Ballads in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search

Sources[edit]

  • The Life: The Lore and Folk Poetry of the Black Hustler, Wepman, Newman & Binderman, Holloway House, 1976, ISBN 0-87067-367-X

External links[edit]