Spanning 30 years of recording, Lovely Creatures is a collection of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds music from their 1984 debut From Her To Eternity to 2013’s 15th studio album Push The Sky Away.
Compiled by Cave and longtime Bad Seeds cohort Mick Harvey, the album was scheduled for release in Autumn 2015, but shelved following the death of Cave’s 15-year-old son Arthur in July of that year.
As Cave notes in his afterword to the album, Lovely Creatures “lost, for a time, it’s place in the narrative” as he and the band struggled to come to terms with Arthur’s loss while working on the “strange, raw and different present” that was last year’s Skeleton Tree.
Now released to coincide with a world tour, the album is available in a wide variety of formats, including double CD, triple vinyl (both 21 tracks) and a 45-track deluxe triple CD, which includes a book and DVD.
Cave completists will be tempted by the Super Deluxe limited edition package, which includes the three CDs, plus a two-hour DVD – featuring rare and unseen footage – along with a hardcover book containing original essays, together with personal photos taken by the band, family and friends.
To an extent, any critical appraisal of a “Best Of….” album by an artist of Cave’s stature is going to be somewhat superfluous – obviously it’s going to be brilliant.
The major bone of contention will be omissions and inclusions and whether this is a faithful retrospective and useful introduction to The Bad Seeds’ output over that period.
So what do we get….
Well some songs, as Cave concedes “are just too big and have too much history to leave out”.
In this hallowed category you’ll find live stalwarts Stagger Lee and The Mercy Seat, along with the much-loved Cave-Blixa Bargeld duet The Weeping Song and hit Kylie collaboration Where The Wild Roses Grow from the Murder Ballads album.
The rampaging, audacious Deanna, Loverman, and Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! all demand admittance, along with the moving People Ain’t No Good, Straight To You and Into My Arms.
The brooding atmospheric Red Right Hand – practically a character in itself on TV drama Peaky Blinders – is another likely to have been first on the team sheet.
O Children from the Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus album also gets the nod, having featured on the Harry Potter Deathly Hallows – Part 1 soundtrack
You get what you pay for, of course, and those who can stretch to it would be well advised to opt for the triple CD version, a far more comprehensive anthology, which yields such delights as Do You Love Me?, Brompton Oratory and the menacing theatre of The Carny and Tupelo.
As befits a band constantly moving forward, there’s plenty of room for newer material on all formats.
Jubilee Street, We No Who U R and Higgs Boson Blues are on the double CD and vinyl, while Jesus Of The Moon and Night Of The Lotus Eaters are among the extra tracks on the deluxe editions.
So what of the omissions? Well there’s nothing here from the 1987 album of cover versions Kicking Against The Pricks.
Renditions of the Velvets’ All Tomorrow’s Parties, or Running Scared by Roy Orbison – might have given new fans a useful insight into the band’s influences and development.
There’s no space either for Henry Lee, featuring PJ Harvey, or West Country Girl – the song Cave wrote for her.
A blast of Janglin’ Jack would not have gone amiss and many would have argued for the inclusion of Lime Tree Arbour – one of Cave’s most affecting ballads.
But you can’t have everything and as a testament to the extraordinary first three decades of one of alternative rock’s most consistent and enduring bands Lovely Creatures will do just fine.
As Cave says in his afterword: “There are those that didn’t make it, poor things. They are the ones you must discover by yourselves“.
- Lovely Creatures The Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 1984 – 2014 is out now on Mute Records/BMG
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds tour the UK in September
- For more details visit nickcave.com