Another fantastic article from the Quietus, on probably my favourite album, from probably my favourite artist.
And if the Flood-produced Tender Prey was “cobbled together” by a band collectively hammering all manner of narcotics, led by a heroin-addicted singer trying to juggle three major artistic projects at once, the end result was miraculously good. Over ten stubbornly virile tracks, Tender Prey re-presented Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds as masters of garage punk, gothic country and ragged blues, with lyrics laced in malevolent bombast and Catholic guilt. To my 18-year-old ears, the album sounded menacingly sexy.
In truth, ‘The Mercy Seat’ was not only the standout track on Tender Prey but also an outlier. A number of songs on the album remained piano-led and contained a burgeoning musicality. The seeds – if you will excuse the pun – for future classic albums such as 1996’s exquisite Murder Ballads and 2004’s epic double Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus were sown on Tender Prey. Be it on the nocturnal melodrama of ‘Mercy’ (a song about John the Baptist), on ‘Watching Alice’ (Cave’s self-confessed paean to his fascination with voyeurism) or the gentle country gospel of the closing ‘New Morning’, The Bad Seeds had rarely sounded as tender or vulnerable.
In the aftermath of Tender Prey I lapped up everything Nick Cave-related. In August 1989 I saw him give a reading from And The Ass Saw The Angel at Manchester University. It was a darkly hilarious evening. Set against the gothic splendour of the university’s Whitworth Building, Cave bounced between being genuinely funny and demonically bleak. A few weeks later I attended a matinee showing of Ghosts… of The Civil Dead at Manchester’s Cornerhouse. Cave’s performance was pretty staggering, and without wanting to offer any spoilers, his role in the film’s utterly harrowing final scene ensured a stunned silence in the cinema as the credits rolled. I remember stumbling out into the Saturday afternoon shopping crowd feeling totally unnerved. I headed to the nearest pub and drank several pints of industrial-strength continental lager in an attempt to dull the stomach-churning shock.