The fourth album from Nick and the dapper chaps, released in 1986, remains a little bit sidelined, as far as I’m concerned. It’s Cave ‘s Grand Guignol, one of his most macabre and sexually charged… And that’s going some for someone who is often criticised for the violence of his lyrics.
‘The Carny’ is a personal favourite of mine, an eight minutes long epic with some of his most allegorical leanings. A Tom Waits – esque romp following a seedy carnival leaving town, and tending to the death of their horse, Sorrow. A sinister waltz, it swirls with drama and malevolence.
Then, there’s the incomparable ‘Hard-On For Love’, a grinding sleaze fest which pitches Cave as the ultimate pervert, hiding in a virgin’s skirts, all the whIle desperately praying as he targets his prey. It’s disturbing, strangely satirical and silly all at once.
But this is but one side. There’s a tenderness too. ‘Stranger Than Kindness’ is a thing of beauty, with rippling guitars and the kind of Americana depicted by Edward Hopper and Sam Shepard. It’s the epitome of 3 am loneliness, sat alone in a diner, cursing your lot.
The title track ties the romantic and sour together, with its lapsed Catholic imagery and trickling piano lines. For me, it is symbolic of the inherent contradiction in Nick Cave, now as then… The sacred and profane, enmeshed together in a constantly shifting dance. This album is an absolute masterpiece to me.