Under The Influence #37: Witnesses on “Murder Ballads” by Nick Cave!

Released in 1996, the ninth studio album “Murder Ballads” from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds received critical acclaim with Cave heralded as giving the performance of his life throughout the recording. Joined by no less than sixteen guest musicians while performing duets with PJ Harvey and Kylie Minogue, it might surprise you to know that Nick Cave himself is not just a vocalist on the album. He plays Piano, Organ and Hammond while also being credited with recording the gunshots on “Stagger Lee” and arranging the strings on “Where the Wild Roses Grow“. Considered a concept album, “Murder Ballads” developed the idea formulated in “O’Malley’s Bar“, a song left over from the recording of 1992’s “Henry’s Dream” which didn’t fit but had enduring quality. Cave decided to make an album around the song while taking some traditional murder ballads and a Bob Dylan cover into the fold and the result is a dark album of interweaving confessionals that is gloriously unnerving.

Greg from Witnesses comments: “This was a terribly difficult thing to choose. I enjoy all genres of music, and am moved by so much of it. But lately something about Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads is on my mind. The music is masterful and I am not even sure what genre to call it. It’s almost like sending the darkness of outlaw country and blues through the voice and eyes of Frankenstein Elvis. The music is of course fantastic, but I think what really gets me are the lyrics. They really, truly tell stories. I am trying to channel that narrative imagery in our next doom album, actually. And while perhaps it is predictable to praise “Stagger Lee” as the standout track, let’s just call it like it is: a masterpiece. There is a blend of nihilism, rage, violence, and vulgarity that never feels cheap in it. And it is of course followed by this freakishly tender, but similarly violent, song. How do you follow up “Stagger Lee”? A duet with PJ Harvey, apparently. Brilliant. Fools deny this

To Disappear and be Nothing” by Witnesses is out now

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