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30 Years Ago: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Surge Forward With ‘Your Funeral… My Trial’

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After the Birthday Party split, leader Nick Cave set out on a solo path that would eventually encompass a very wide variety of styles. While his first couple of records built upon his original group’s sound, he wouldn’t fully find his own voice until his haunting, brooding masterpiece, Your Funeral… My Trial, which arrived in November 1986.

To call Your Funeral… My Trial a “rock and roll” album would be somewhat misleading, though it certainly does rock. Cave had long sung the praises of songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Lee Hazlewood and Johnny Cash — all grand storytellers in song — and Cave himself was fine-tuning that approach.

“Sad Waters” opens the album with an almost Velvet Underground-meets-Jim Webb style that Cave and band bask in. His melodic sense is more developed than on some of his earlier work and shines brightly here. “The Carney” merges the aforementioned influences with something akin to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. The song was featured prominently in the 1987 Wim Wnders film Wings of Desire, which also included an appearance from Cave and band. Throughout, the songs present somewhat like little one-act plays, each with a unique story to tell.

“Well I think Your Funeral… My Trial was particularly narrative,” Cave told New Musical Express in 1988. “The way I’m portrayed I find particularly funny sometimes, this supposed pessimism I’m meant to harbour towards everything and anything. I think something like Your Funeral… My Trial has got its humorous side, because I’m reasonably aware of the reputation that I’ve got. I find it curious to think certain people would find songs I write so continually harping on the same themes to be irritating, pathetic and so on. I kind of find some sort of enjoyment in that.”

The Bad Seeds, guitarist Blixa Bargeld, drummer Thomas Wydler, and multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey, make the whole thing roll. Their playing is dynamic and pushes forward from start to end. The album closes with a cover of “Long Time Man,” originally recorded by songwriter Tim Rose in 1967, on which Cave stays true to the feel of the haunting tune, but is able to recast it in his own shadow.

Your Funeral… My Trial was a major step forward for Cave. The album topped the U.K. independent charts and was a Top 10 favorite on college radio across America. His next effort, Tender Prey, would cement his reputation as one of the most significant writers and performers of his era.

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