Album Review: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - 'B-Sides and Rarities: Part II'

With a career spanning 17 albums and over twice as many years, Nick Cave has established himself as one of the most complex, sophisticated songwriters of all time. Originally formed in Australia, his band has chopped and changed through the years, now a 6 piece monster featuring two Australians, two Americans, a guitarist from the UK and a swiss drummer. Naturally over such a massive career come many tracks and ideas that never made the final cut. Now the band compile those lost songs for part two of their B-Sides and Rarities collection. Maia Gibbs gives her take on fifteen years of unseen Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have unfurled their new archival compilation B-Sides and Rarities: Part II via Mute Records, and it’s certainly a mammoth to behold. The 27-song collection serves as a long-awaited sequel to the band’s 2005 studio set B-Sides and Rarities. It features unreleased recordings from 2006 to 2020 that were teased through their pre-released lead tracks Vortex, Earthlings, and a live recording of Push the Sky Away with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

"Known for their emotional intensity and lyrical obsession with death, love, religion and violence, these tracks offer a different specific on his obviously very trivial and light musical influences."

It could arguably not come at a better time. Now half way into his fifth decade of releasing records Nick Cave’s cultish following have not waived in their allegiance to the rock lyricist, yet grown in somber crowds. In Addition to the two-CD, two-LP and digital version of the second instalment, the band will also package both the 2005 collection and the 2021 compilation as the limited edition B-Sides & Rarities Part I and Part II, a 7-LP box set featuring all 83 tracks and exclusive sleeve notes. It’s like a Smörgåsbord of emotional breakdowns and internal crises. It is definitely an album to go into with some mental security – but that can be said for all of the Bad Seeds albums.

The rarities collection is an opportunity for the band to collate relics of the Bad Seeds past, and give them their due justice, and that it certainly does. Known for their emotional intensity and lyrical obsession with death, love, religion and violence, these tracks offer a different specific on his obviously very trivial and light musical influences. An impressive feat considering the band has already released seventeen studio albums.

This collection is so important in the different stories it tells. Compiled by Cave and Bad Seed-in-chief Warren Ellis, B-Sides & Rarities (Part II) reveals a new face of the worries and insecurities behind Cave’s confrontational performances, shock of black hair and pale, emaciated look.

He also spares some advice - very kind after taking us all through a journey of turmoil.

“I always liked the original B-Sides & Rarities more than any of our other albums. It’s the only one I’d listen to willingly,” Cave said in a statement. “It seems more relaxed, even a bit nonsensical in places, but with some beautiful songs throughout. There is something, too, about the smallness of certain songs that is closer to their original spirit.”

He continued: “B-Sides & Rarities: Part II continues this strange and beautiful collection of lost songs from the Bad Seeds. I love the final side of the last disc because it reveals the small and fragile beginnings of some of my favourite Bad Seeds songs’. He cites Waiting for You and it’s bizarre ‘canning factory’ rhythm track as one his favourites. Aswell as Life Per Se, deemed too sad for Skeleton Tree. I don’t know if any of you have ever listened to Skeleton Tree but something being deemed ‘too sad’ for it is a feat.

This period of grief and experimental sound has seen the band connect with more people than ever. Cave is raw, honest and with a deep need to connect – to people, a higher power, a beauty. He reaches audiences in a way not many other artists can. Many critics call singers poets – but that is true for Cave. These pieces illuminate Cave’s obsessions without reaching a conclusion or a higher realisation. “I thought these songs would set me free,” Cave sings on unreleased Earthlings. But that’s the thing with Nick Cave songs and with life - you never really do. God that’s all very deep.

Written by: Maia Gibbs

Edited by: Elliot Fox

In article images courtesy of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds via Facebook. Video Courtesy of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds via YouTube.