For the Mute Records release of remasters of the entire Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds discography, the music-mad minds at the Aquarium Drunkard blog at looking at Nick and the Seeds' first four records. They've just posted their thoughts on Firstborn is Dead, the second platter from the boys.
From the post by m garner:
To understand what happened with Nick Cave between From Her to Eternity and The Firstborn is Dead, it’s important to hear Cave’s cover of "In the Ghetto." The song, written by Mac Davis and made famous by Elvis Presley (and, for later generations, Eric Cartman), was left off of the original Eternity LP but found 7" release between the two records. As covers–and particularly Nick Cave covers, as we shall see next week–go, it’s a straightforward affair. Cave’s baritone is rich here, a tone more befitting the smooth, heartbroken tone of the song than the strangle he'd been applying to the rest of the Eternity material. The Bad Seeds show early signs of the tender noise they'd perfect over time, with Blixa Bargeld's guitar feeding back in a sort-of moan while Mick Harvey snaps out a martial dirge. It's a moving performance, one completely devoid of irony, and Cave’s first naked moment as a solo artist.
But the real knot in the noose comes at the very beginning, with "Tupelo." Firstborn’s opening track—named for Elvis Presley's stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley—commences with washes of thunder and gunshot and rain, all of which quickly yield to Barry Adamson’s peg-legged bass while Mick Harvey drums out a Bo Diddley beat till the skin starts to come off. This is an apocalypse you can nod your head to. But the track belongs to the Worst Seed and to the images he repeats like funeral rites. Cave barrels through "Tupelo" with paddlewheel rhythm, growling and shuddering at times, but never breaking into self-parody. There’s nothing remotely funny about the scene down south as Cave describes it, wrapping together floods and tornadoes with the Second Coming of Christ and the birth of Elvis and America and who knows how many other things in the tiny town of Tupelo, Mississippi. "The King gonna walk on Tupelo," he wails repeatedly, referring to Elvis and to Christ in a narrative where the death of the day swallows the birth. The scratch of Bargeld's slide guitar is haunting, a sort-of vomiting upside-down John Lee Hooker, whose 'Tupelo Blues" served as an inspiration for the song. As with From Her to Eternity, Flannery O’Connor looms large all over the place, her crutches striking the levees and sending the river scattering into the homes like a pack of wolves looking for anything alive. And the Bad Seeds coo the title out together—"Tupelo"—like combs dripping with honey. And you can hear the waver in Nick Cave's voice as he shakes his head. "Oh God help Tupelo," he says. And the rain begins to pour once again.