Was there ever a bleaker title?
Chris Long 2009-05-08
Was there ever a bleaker title than Your Funeral… My Trial? Even by Nick Cave's dark-hearted standards, it's a weighty moniker to millstone a collection with.
Recorded quickly in Berlin's Hansa Studios – the same studio that birthed David Bowie's masterpiece, 'Heroes' - across two summer months of 1986, it is every bit as dark and desolate as that title suggests.
Yet it is also one of Nick Cave's most accessible and varied works. Released hot on the heels of the difficult yet deadly covers album Kicking Against The Pricks – a mere three months separates them – it is filled with the sultry and salacious, the sanguine and staggering.
Indeed, it's an introduction to every voice, from murder balladeer to furious bluesman, that the maturing and increasingly marvellous songsmith would use beyond it.
Top billing goes to the thrilling cabaret of The Carny, a song so ocular, it is hard to listen to it without swirling off into rain-streaked monochrome visions of the gnarled troop huddled against the weather.
Alongside it rages a charming myriad of subtle tumult. There's the aching thrill of Sad Waters, the taut dramatic hopelessness of the title track, the electrifying chaos of Jack's Shadow, the dirty roar of Hard On For Love - and then there's Stranger Than Kindness.
Built around a skin-shivering guitar coil, Stranger Than Kindness is the opening salvo of one of Cave's greatest talents – the twisted love song. At once both beautiful and startling, it is a song that sounds like a held breath, never letting slip the power that swells within it.
Your Funeral… My Trial is a lesson in delicious restraint and revelation, a showcase of just what grandeur can be achieved by a speedy yet dedicated work ethic, and as fine an opus as Cave has ever produced.