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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Live From KCRW Julian Marszalek , December 3rd, 2013 09:59

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Earlier this year while waiting to interview Beady Eye in a north London rehearsal studio, your humble scribe unexpectedly spent some time in the company of The Bad Seeds' metronomic man mountain that is Jim Sclavunos. Suited and booted at 10am and charming almost to a fault, the drummer explained that, despite having already been touring their fifteenth studio album, Push The Sky Away, the band were now hunkering down to rehearse for festival performances which would involve tweaking a number of their songs for the purposes of set and setting.

It's precisely this approach to their art that's evident throughout the 10 live readings – 12 for all you vinyl junkies out there – contained in this recording made in front of a small audience for LA radio station KCRW. Captured between their Coachella appearances earlier this year, Live From KCRW is an affirmation of their latest incarnation.

Though the focus of the band has always been Nick Cave, the sound that they make has been pretty much determined by the lieutenants at his side. Witness 'Stranger Than Kindness', a track originally from Your Funeral… My Trial, which mutates subtly from the haunting and unconventional guitar playing of Blixa Bargeld into a an equally unsettling beast propelled by shuffled beats and something approaching a conventional deployment of a fretboard and strings. Similarly, the aural horror of 'The Mercy Seat' is here replaced by Cave's measured piano playing and the mournful sweeps of Warren Ellis' violin and the effect is no less lingering nor disturbing than the original.

So, as with Bargeld and the now departed Mick Harvey, Ellis has taken the position of Minister of Sinister Noises and his mastery of four-stringed instruments and loops has made an indelible impact on the band. His presence is keenly felt throughout, be it the loops of 'Wide Lovely Eyes' or the assault that powers the closing 'Jack The Ripper' and it's this breadth of sound that now defines The Bad Seeds. This, seemingly, is a band that can try its hand at anything but credit must also go to Jim Sclavunos' considered drumming, Martyn Casey's idiosyncratic rumbling bass and the welcome return of Barry Adamson, who sits at the keyboards.

Live At KCRW is a fine declaration of where The Bad Seeds are in the here and now. It would be a fool who would second-guess as to where they're headed to next but at this moment in time they sound as comfortable in their music as they do the fine suits they wear.

john p.
Dec 4, 2013 5:00pm

Side 1 is absolutely brilliant with great versions of 'Higgs Boson Blues' (better than on the album), 'Far From Me' (one of my faves) and especially 'Mercy Seat' which I thought Nick had played to death by now but sounds fantastic here, Unfortunately side is only half as good with the terrible 'Wide Open Eyes' and rather messy 'Jack The Ripper'.

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Dec 4, 2013 5:01pm

In reply to john p.:

...Unfortunately side TWO that is...

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