The Firstborn Is Dead album cover
The Firstborn Is Dead

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds


The Firstborn Is Dead is where things start to cohere for Nick Cave, after a compelling but uneven solo debut. If “Tupelo” was Cave’s first iconic performance, its stealthy and pummelling bass entrapped by thundering drums, the real meat of the album lands in its second half, where Cave’s blues obsession finds its most articulate expression yet. “Knockin On Joe” is gallows blues, with Blixa Bargeld’s guitar bleakly drowsy; the cover of Dylan’s “Wanted Man,” a song written for Johnny Cash, is as unrelenting as it is haunted, and the closing “Blind Lemon Jefferson” borrows the name of the Texas blues pioneer for the lone collective composition here, a startling, stumbling drag, levitating on a Bargeld slide-guitar drone that’s thin, needly and penetrating. It’s one of the Bad Seeds’ classic line-up’s bravura performances.

Jon Dale

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