Monday, July 27, 2009

Rock of Ages: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - "The Mercy Seat" (1988)

I just finally got around to diving head first into the long and sordid career of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Lucky for me it was filled with copious fantastic recordings, including last years Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! His music is all gloomy and baroque and melodramatic. His 1988 album, the fantastic Tender Prey, is easily one of the best of his catalog. The songs range from straight up boogie rock like "Deanna" to creeper, saloon story telling like "Up Jumped the Devil." Although undeniably his most well known song is "Red Right Hand" from Let Love In, "The Mercy Seat" is The Bad Seeds magnum opus. A long and harrowing epic at 7 plus minutes in length, it tells the tale of a death row inmate who is coming to terms with his fate. Lyrically, the song sounds like the ramblings of a madman contemplating the good and bad that he's done through his life and how he "is not afraid to die." The Mercy Seat is traditionally known as the seat in which Jesus sits atop the Arc of the Covenant, but on earth "It's made of wood and wire" signifying the electric chair. His mercy is his death.

The Bad Seeds at this point is at it's finest. Multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey rocks some intense bass guitar loops and other instruments that add to the frenzied pace and sound of the track, avante garde guitarist Blixa Bargeld rocks the slide guitar and Cave sits behind his pulpit of a Hammond Organ for a creepy, church organ vibe that chills to the bone and swirls inside your head. The wave of sound that comes forth sounds and feels much like an electrical current that would rush through your body, making this the most harrowing song and scarily effective track I have ever heard. As the chorus repeats, it changes from the defiant inmate claiming innocence to accepting guilt. The song explodes with sound and slowly comes to an end. "The Mercy Seat" is a perfect example of music and story coming together and creating a perfect mood piece. Nick Cave is great and twisting plots and telling tales of depraved people. His career goes beyond the Seeds as he has written novels and wrote the screenplay to the amazing 2005 flick The Proposition.

Embedding this video was disabled, but the actual video for the song is pretty awesome:

Here is a live version

Up Next: The Pixies bought me a soda to end the 80's

1 comment:

Mr. Dogg said...

Glad you wrote about this song.

Every time I listen to it, I think I AM GOING TO DIE.

I don't think I need to explain why to someone who is in the wake of Poseidon.