Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Lovely Creatures: The Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1984-2014) (Mute)

Heart-Shaped Box Sets

Heart-Shaped Box Sets

Romantic, explosive, misanthropic: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds are so volatile they should've imploded decades ago. Instead, the Australian poet laureate and his fluid collective have sustained a 30-plus-year career at least substantial enough for a 3-CD/1-DVD box.

A visionary songwriter individual enough to rate alongside Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell, Cave started out favoring blues-infused noise-scapes as settings for his gothic tales of fear and loathing. That changed radically over time, from the first decade's rabid rant & roll to the second's lounge-lizard-from-hell crooning and the third's eclectic art-rock. Curated by the band, Lovely Creatures chronicles the sweep of this iconoclastic ensemble.

Each disc essentially covers a decade, but the set gives more weight to recent work. The first CD pulls from seven albums, the second from five, and the third from three, with 2004's Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus culling the most cuts. The DVD compiles two hours from across the decades: TV performances, interview excerpts (including from a 2014 Austin City Limits taping), and bootleg YouTube videos.

That will lead to general die-hard disgruntlement – only one cut from 1984 debut From Her to Eternity? – and the set is nearly devoid of B-sides and outtakes. But it's a sharp look at how a major artist sees his own work, set to a soundtrack that's held up incredibly well. Further illumination comes in the Super Deluxe edition from a 250-page hardback book overflowing with scholarly essays, photographs, and reproductions of concert fliers, tickets, backstage passes, postcards, song drafts, and a bizarre fax depicting a self-drawn, nude Cave demanding "Don't forget."

Lovely Creatures proves that impossible.

****

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