Track List

Sad Waters

The Carny

Your Funeral, My Trial

Stranger Than Kindness

Jack's Shadow

Hard On For Love

She Fell Away

Long Time Man

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Your Funeral...My Trial (2xLP)
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Record Label: Mute

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"Your Funeral… My Trial sounds far more arranged than I remembered: things sound broader, deeper, from the very off, the title track waltzing in on this marvelous Al Kooper-ish organ swell like the sonic equivalent of ecclesiastical purple trim, one stitch in a quasi-hymnal sweep of glinting detail. The bass is monumental, but somehow ghostly. Hear how the singer stretches – lives in – the “here” of “Here I am, little lamb…” Might not the softest song in the world hail from the hardest nights?

"Stranger Than Kindness" has to be near top of my own personal Desert Island list of Cave works. Sheer dream of a timeless yet timely torch song, like yearning or wistfulness made sound, it feels lighter than air yet heavier than sin. Unique arrangement by Bargeld, sonic eddies like warm breath around your ear, discreetly framing Cave sermonising like Orson Welles in Huston’s Moby Dick. (I love the way he almost caresses the phrase “they journey, they loiter,” and, especially, “Tell me I’m dirty…”) Bargeld makes guitars sound like spray, spume or embers. A song you don’t need to be some delirious Nick Cave believer to believe in, to adore.

"Jack’s Shadow" trips on a deviously simple acoustic blues figure, the drums like guillotine fanfare, Bargeld’s electric slide summoning sheer sonic anxiety, the song itself like Mailer’s unwieldy Executioner’s Song compressed into the breezy allegory of Song. Jack has peeled off and must throw his demon away; Cave seems to be on the verge of reaching some kind of fruitful accommodation with his own. Where on previous works it wasn’t entirely clear whether he was in charge of his demons/obsessions, Your Funeral… My Trial now sounds like the watershed moment when a proper measure of artistic control was gained, to be subsequently built upon.

"The Carny" totters near the grimy ledge of self-parody – but the music is so delicious, so delicate and rich and properly arranged (and captures somehow such a depth of genuine sadness) it’s impossible to resist. This was the song Cave & The Seeds performed in Wenders’ Wings of Desire; although in hindsight it seems hard to think of Wenders and Cave in the same room, artistically – or more to the point maybe, theologically – speaking. 

"She Fell Away" features one of my all-time favourite Cave lines: “Seems impossible to me now / But once the road lay open like a girl…” and the unfeasibly sublime "Sad Waters" has too many favourite lines to quote. At this distance, we may note how Cave is learning to sing, really sing, such lines. Hear, for example, the way he invests an almost throwaway, simple line like “Mary in the shallows / laughing” with such tenderness and ache. Something listening to this re-issue led me to notice is how saturated the whole album is with religious quotes, references, and overtones. It’s often so subtle you may not even notice – carnal devotion italicised in the syntax of heavenly worship, as here, where Mary’s honey body turns the “waters into wine”…

"Hard On For Love" may be the thumping-est thing Cave had essayed since the Birthday Party’s Junkyard O.D., its wired blood pounding somewhere between an unlikely Gospel and old favourite "Sonny’s Burning." Cave’s take on the Tim Rose classic "Long Time Man" sounds genuinely wracked, abject; listen to the way he sings “love” in the line “I haven’t had any love…” – this is why Your Funeral… My Trial sounded so striking in 1986 and why it does so again, today. Indie music for the most part still sounds all too homogenously jangly and sexless and metaphysically empty to me, as it did then; and Cave still sounds like a man consumed by devotion, doubt, love, need. He throws himself into song, as into something both forbiddingly holy and something seductively unclean." - Ian Penman