It's been thirty years since a fresh faced, big haired Nick Cave left the punk outfit The Birthday Party and formed his own band à part, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. In these decades we've seen a wealth of talented and influential band members come and go (please come back Blixa) but one thing remains the same – the 6 ft 2" man mountain, conducting his troupe, weaving his poetry, lifting our spirits, breaking our hearts and taking us to the darkest corners of our souls. With Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' fifteenth studio album due for release in couple of weeks, Wax Lyrical takes a look at three different masks worn by Cave; what lies beneath is anyone's best guess.



Nick the Goth: 'The Mercy Seat'

From the fiendishly good fourth album Tender Prey, recorded in West Berlin in 1988, 'The Mercy Seat' retains its bleak yet compelling attraction decades later. The wall torn Berlin is echoed in Cave's guilt torn protagonist, a murderer on death row, declaring his innocence throughout the song until the final line "I'm afraid I told a lie." The repetition of lyrics and instrumentation builds an eerie scene of a man looking death in the eye, without flinching as the tale comes to a crescendo: the gristly description of a man dying right in front of you.

  • And the mercy seat is waiting
  • And I think my head is burning
  • And in a way I'm yearning
  • To be done with all this measuring of truth.
  • An eye for an eye
  • And a tooth for a tooth
  • And anyway I told the truth
  • And I'm not afraid to die.
  • And the mercy seat is burning
  • And I think my head is glowing
  • And in a way I'm hoping
  • To be done with all this weighing up of truth.
  • An eye for an eye
  • And a tooth for a tooth
  • And I've got nothing left to lose
  • And I'm not afraid to die.

  • And the mercy seat is glowing
  • And I think my head is smoking
  • And in a way I'm hoping
  • To be done with all this looks of disbelief.
  • An eye for an eye
  • And a tooth for a tooth
  • And anyway there was no proof
  • Nor a motive why.
  • And the mercy seat is smoking
  • And I think my head is melting
  • And in a way I'm helping
  • To be done with all this twisted of the truth.
  • A lie for a lie
  • And a truth for a truth
  • And I've got nothing left to lose
  • And I'm not afraid to die.

  • And the mercy seat is melting
  • And I think my blood is boiling
  • And in a way I'm spoiling
  • All the fun with all this truth and consequence.
  • An eye for an eye
  • And a truth for a truth
  • And anyway I told the truth
  • And I'm not afraid to die.
  • And the mercy seat is waiting
  • And I think my head is burning
  • And in a way I'm yearning
  • To be done with all this measuring of proof.
  • A life for a life
  • And a truth for a truth
  • And anyway there was no proof
  • But I'm not afraid to tell a lie.
  • And the mercy seat is waiting
  • And I think my head is burning
  • And in a way I'm yearning
  • To be done with all this measuring of truth.
  • An eye for an eye
  • And a truth for a truth
  • And anyway I told the truth
  • But I'm afraid I told a lie.



Nick the Romantic: 'Straight to You'

The first single from the 1992 album Henry's Dream, and one of my all time favourite tracks, 'Straight to You' has some of the most heart wrenching sentiment Cave's ever come out with. Determined to save his relationship in the face of adversity, he explains to his love that despite the glory days being seemingly over; and you can bet that they were the most mind blowing, soul shaking, crazy making glory days; he is categorically not going anywhere.

  • All the towers of ivory are crumbling
  • And the swallows have sharpened their beaks
  • This is the time of our great undoing
  • This is the time that I'll come running
  • Straight to you
  • For I am captured
  • Straight to you
  • For I am captured
  • One more time

  • The light in our window is fading
  • The candle gutters on the ledge
  • Well now sorrow, it comes a-stealing
  • And I'll cry, girl, but I'll come a-running
  • Straight to you
  • For I am captured
  • Straight to you
  • For I am captured
  • Once again

  • Gone are the days of rainbows
  • Gone are the nights of swinging from the stars
  • For the sea will swallow up the mountains
  • And the sky will throw thunder-bolts and sparks
  • Straight at you
  • But I'll come a-running
  • Straight to you
  • But I'll come a-running
  • One more time



Nick the Everyman: 'There She Goes, My Beautiful World'

Writer's block is the devil. You stare at the page but words don't come. It gives me some strange comfort that Nick Cave suffers from it too. From the double album Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus, the illustrious 'There She Goes, My Beautiful World' sees Cave turn to his heroes - dead philosophers, poets and rock stars – for inspiration in his time of need. What he ends up with is a list of their talents and achievements as accidental proof of his own. I really enjoy the line, presumably addressed to "her, his beautiful world," who has been no use at all - "I look at you and you look at me and deep in our hearts know it, That you weren't much of a muse, but then I weren't much of a poet." Oh Nick, you joker.

  • John Willmot penned his poetry riddled with the pox
  • Nabakov wrote on index cards, at a lectern, in his socks
  • St. John of the Cross did his best stuff imprisoned in a box
  • And Johnny Thunders was half alive when he wrote Chinese Rocks

  • Well, me, I'm lying here, with nothing in my ears
  • Me, I'm lying here, with nothing in my ears
  • Me, I'm lying here, for what seems years
  • I'm just lying on my bed with nothing in my head

  • Send that stuff on down to me
  • Send that stuff on down to me
  • Send that stuff on down to me
  • Send that stuff on down to me

  • There she goes, my beautiful world
  • There she goes, my beautiful world
  • There she goes, my beautiful world
  • There she goes again
  • Karl Marx squeezed his carbuncles while writing Das Kapital
  • And Gaugin, he buggered off, man and went all tropical
  • While Philip Larkin stuck it out in a library in Hull
  • And Dylan Thomas died drunk in St. Vincent's hospital

  • I will kneel at your feet
  • I will lie at your door
  • I will rock you to sleep
  • I will roll on the floor
  • And I'll ask for nothing
  • Nothing in this life
  • I'll ask for nothing
  • Give me ever-lasting life

  • There she goes, my beautiful world
  • There she goes, my beautiful world
  • There she goes, my beautiful world
  • There she goes again

  • So if you got a trumpet, get on your feet, brother, and blow it
  • If you've got a field, that don't yield, well get up and hoe it
  • I look at you and you look at me and deep in our hearts know it
  • That you weren't much of a muse, but then I weren't much of a poet


I'm aware that this barely scratches the surface but I'll leave it there. Go delve around in those fourteen albums, get refreshed then get excited, get ready for Cave; a new album awaits and a summer of shows too. I can't hardly wait.