Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds | The Boatman’s Call – 1997

A man and his band, barely in control of their instruments and themselves, find a quiet place of sorrow. I, on the other hand…

“I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do”

I had previously thought that Nick Cave had written the best opening line for a song. I now think he has written the best opening line to an album. I had also thought of him as loud and angry and dangerous to know. Listen to this album to change your opinions.

1997 was a great year for me. We in our home in Petersham. It was a September morning that year when Caitlin completed our family. The place was small, but enough for a small family. We’d broken up the concrete in the backyard to allow the lemon tree to survive. Not a lot of sun, not a lot of anything really. I remember that there wasn’t much room to be alone in the house or yard. We were heading towards the end of inner city life for something larger.

Occasionally the Salvation Army band would wander along the next street, playing and looking like something from an earlier time. They provided a nice balance for the drug dealer who lived on the other side of the road.

Marg has told me that we had a gold Honda Prelude  – I have no memory of this car and a bit surprised that there was room to park that car, the small one way street we lived on was always full of cars.

I think I was working as a production scheduler in a factory in Blacktown, driving against the traffic every morning and afternoon. I was also studying in Ultimo for a Systems Analyst and programmer. The degree went by the name of a Dip Ed Anal Prog. I didn’t like the programming part of the course.

and onto the album …..

This was Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds tenth album and follows the cheerful ‘Murder Ballads’. In it’s own way, this album is also about death and an end.

Nick was living a shattered life. 1997 was a bad year for him, he has was battling heroin addiction and had broken his relationships with both his wife and PJ Harvey.

It is suggested that the songs document his time with Polly Jane, these songs have a lyrical and religious intonation. At the same time it is deeply profane.

This has been called the greatest breakup album since Sinatra’s ‘In the wee small hours’, an album about Sinatra’s breakup with his wife, Ava Gardner. In the same manner, ‘Boatman’s Call’ is subdued and reflective. ‘The Bad Seeds’ play a subtle background in this quiet space.

The track ‘Lime Tree Arbour’ is where the album is named. The boatman is the ferryman on the river Styx, and the his love has left with him. On other tracks his statements are more direct. The song ‘People just ain’t no good’ doesn’t need much explanation. It was refreshing to hear this song in a Shrek film.

Songs on this album talk about lovers leaving, trains going west, imploring lovers to wake up, the smell of lime. It is full of symbols of loss and death. There is sadness but no depression, there is a kingdom and there is hope.

This is a great album and one worth many listens. The music is wonderfully restrained and strong, the lyrics will intrigue.

Track listing:-
“Into My Arms”
“Lime Tree Arbour”
“People Ain’t No Good”
“Brompton Oratory”
“There Is a Kingdom”
“(Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For?”
“Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere?”
“West Country Girl”
“Black Hair”
“Idiot Prayer”
“Far From Me”
“Green Eyes”
Total length:
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One Response to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds | The Boatman’s Call – 1997

  1. Pingback: A life in albums | michaelsprott

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