Sixteen years ago, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released a collection of B-Sides and rarities. Now the hardcore fans have been blessed with a follow-up, covering 2006 up to the present day. Like all collections of this nature, it’s a mixed bag, appealing mainly to the committed fans who hoover up all of the albums. The slinkier side of Cave and co is largely absent, bar the opening track Hey Little Firing Squad, which is probably the most cheerful thing here. Elsewhere, there are plenty of nice, melodic moments such as Fleeting Love, Accidents Will Happen and Vortex. A lovely duet with Debbie Harry from 2009, the Jeffrey Lee Pierce song Free To Walk is rescued from obscurity and fits in well here, sounding even better than you might expect from these two strong personalities. It’s followed by an updated version of Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche, a far more polite version than the snarling version with the Bad Seeds recorded 35 years ago. There are droney rumbles (Needle Boy, Lightning Bolts, Opium Eyes n Euthanasia) which feature Cave mostly speaking over the low drones and these work as atmosphere-setting pieces. A highlight of the first disc is an extremely tender live version of Push the Sky Away with the Melbourne Symphony orchestra, one of Cave’s most beautiful songs, real lump-in-throat stuff.
The second disc features early versions of recent material Skeleton Tree, Bright Horses, Girl In Amber, and Waiting for You. It’s fascinating to hear these early versions, these are a good listen in their own right. There are a pair of instrumentals, the twinkling Instrumental 33, and the serene and gorgeous Glacier. Gentle Piano ballad Life Per Se is as strong as anything on his recent albums, yet here it’s tossed off as a B side halfway through the second disc! One of the more intriguing tracks is the spoken word Steve McQueen, where he appears to inhabit a housefly(!) before singing “someone’s gotta sing the stars, and someone’s gotta sing the rain” before substituting blood and pain later. In other hands, this could be a bit much but Nick Cave has the right tone that he just about gets away with it. At times it takes itself a bit too seriously, the final track Earthlings starts out with a gloomy church organ that leads into a sort of ‘kumbaya’, and this IS a bit much.
There is a lot of it, at 27 tracks over a pair of discs, it can be exhausting to take in all at once, but much of the material here is the equal of any of his last four or five albums.