Sadly, Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s No More Shall We Part made it atop (or on, for that matter) very few lists from 2001. Of course, that is to be expected, as great art is almost always unappreciated during its time. So I must justify why this album should have been perched high among the Björks and Pernice Brothers of last year. Perhaps I can best explain my love for this album most effectively by first explaining some of my own background.
I grew up singing and listening to hymns in a small Mennonite church outside of a small community (about 1300 people). I am talking about old hymns, the ones with the “dosts,” “thees,” and “thous.” Their feelings and themes were often drenched with the concepts of sin and redemption. Back then, I didn’t especially like singing those songs. Fast forward to today, where I nearly cringe every time I go to a service with its modern praise and worship songs, complete with laptop computers and overhead projectors.
Please understand, though, I think people can be utterly sincere in their worship with any style of music, but I have a hard time with modern versions. I love singing hymns now. I love how they remind me of my family and childhood and I love how beautiful they can be.
Nick Cave has tapped into my youth with his dark hymns. His half-spoken word/half-sung approach to delivering his lyrics is highly charged. But that is only the half of it. Cave obviously engages his soul and angst into each one of his words as if every one was absolutely essential to the album. His voice’s originality is on par with that of Waits, Cash, or Dylan. From whispering to yelling, from a hurried sense of urgency to a laid back apathy, Cave does not stagnate on any track with his vocals.
Most of the tracks on the album use a piano to accent the song structures and melodies. The pretty piano parts are a great contrast to Cave’s harsh approach. Of course, the Bad Seeds are not wasted and are utilized on the violin, organ, bass, drums, and two guitars. And fleshing it out is a string quartet including viola, cello, bass, and violin… very nice.
Not one of the songs acts as a filler or short letdown to let you catch your breath. Each is complete and usually over 5 minutes in length. Cave’s lyrics are poignant, telling a story with each song, and quite descriptively. “God Is In the House” is especially telling. I love all the tunes, but if I had to pick a couple favorites, I would mention “Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow” and “Darker With the Day.”
So what can be said in conclusion? Probably that I am a little crazy for making such a blatant statement this long after the year has passed, but the facts still remain. I am not going to marry Christina Ricci, I will never dunk a basketball on a regulation size hoop, God loves me, and No More Shall We Part is the best album of 2001.
Written by Jeffrey Ellinger.