Remastered and expanded reissues of three important Bad Seeds albums.
Mike Diver 2010
Sometimes an opener strikes its audience with such force that it immediately defines the act in question, casting such a shadow that all that follows is obscured. And sometimes an opener sounds like The Mercy Seat, leaving the listener broken, guts upturned, shattered despite being rooted to the spot for seven minutes.
Tender Prey, The Bad Seeds’ fifth album, was released in 1988 to a chorus of critical acclaim, much of which was a product of its curtain-raising, righteously rollicking lead track. The Mercy Seat has had much written about it in the years between its original release and this reissue – which features the album in 5.1 surround for those with the right equipment, as well as video content – and little needs adding here. Know, simply, that once heard it’s a song you won’t forget in a hurry.
Tender Prey isn’t without its share of further genuine catalogue highlights, such as Deanna and City of Refuge, finding as it does Cave on scintillating lyrical form and the players – Kid Congo Powers, of The Cramps and The Gun Club, makes his Bad Seeds debut here – operating at a level unprecedented. It represented a high water mark for the band, a belated successor to the malevolence and majesty of 1984’s debut, From Her to Eternity.
Ultimately, neither of its simultaneously reissued follow-up releases – 1990’s The Good Son and 1992’s Henry’s Dream – is quite as striking, but such a statement is borne of pure subjectivity. And it’s not like the two – 5.1 again, plus videos for delights such as Straight to You and The Ship Song (timeless, both) – are poor albums. They’re anything but: the former saw Roland Wolf leave the Bad Seeds fold, but the instrumentation loses little of its potency, and religious imagery remains prominent in Cave’s wordplay. Henry’s Dream kicks off with another song that’s become a bona-fide must-have for those with the slightest of interest in the group, the tremendous Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry. It, like The Mercy Seat two albums before it, is a knee-trembling, blood-boiling show-stopper.
The Bad Seeds don’t really do substandard albums, and this trio represents a very important chapter in the band’s career, where raw aggression was tempered and a little heart emerged through their laid-on-thick expanse of darkness. Let Love In, which followed Henry’s Dream, is probably the pick of the period, but its triumph is by the thinnest of margins.