The product of two months in Berlin during 1984 we find Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds creating a wilfully obfuscated blues record. Lyrically as dense as ever with apocalyptic imagery looming large amongst bizarre story telling (Say Goodbye To The Little Girl Tree - if anyone knows what this is about, please let me know) , every near lapse into 5 bar blues structure is somehow met with a slide into alternate and arrhythmic form. The surround field follows the same half drunk swagger to swell your listening space, adding a hollow boom to bass hits and snares whilst fattening up choruses with greasy reverb. Cave's vocal leaks snake-like into the mix but he leers and sneers with a new confidence built around the growing strength of his voice. Sure, the occasional wobble still blights the odd croon here and there, a momentary deviation to snap the senses from the dark reverie but he's regularly nailing complex technique and totally becoming the subject the matter. There is no protection for him in the mix - his voice sits in a broad dusty spotlight front and centre, it's ragged glory naked for all to hear. Surrounds aren't just for the ambience of the Hansa Studios recording space, delicate counter piano runs and rusty rhythm guitars crawl up to the edge of the sound scape from the rears and peer furtively into the murky abandon. Repeatedly, sparse beginnings begat loud and triumphantly rich endings that take time to decay naturally. It's a dark ride with little hope of redemption offered to the casual listener. An essential step on the dusty trail of The Bad Seeds development, we're asked to bear witness to the bloody testimony here, look but not too closely, listen but don't try and remember everything you heard. Sign here, but don't read the small print.
Like a slow ride to the gates of hell itself, this album is a perverse and fatalistic descent into the dark heart of The Bad Seeds and it belongs on your shelf for those moments when nothing else will quite do. 9.