It was Tender Prey that raised the delightfully unlikely specter of Nick Cave the pop star. What was even better was that the song that damn near did it--"The Mercy Seat"--was an epic litany relating the thoughts of a cond... more »emned prisoner awaiting his walk to the electric chair. "The Mercy Seat" is Cave and his Bad Seeds at their best: the former leavening his mordant tale with grim wit ("A ragged cup, a twisted mop . . . the face of Jesus in my soup"), the latter conjuring an appropriately demented squall of electric guitars and violins. Tender Prey was a massively important album for Cave: for the first time, he is unabashed about projecting his bleak and often misunderstood sense of humor and his ability to write as good a pop tune as anyone. Tender Prey is the beginning of Cave's voyage toward acceptance by the general public and perhaps himself. Everything good he's done since--and there's been an impressive amount--starts here. --Andrew Mueller« less
It was Tender Prey that raised the delightfully unlikely specter of Nick Cave the pop star. What was even better was that the song that damn near did it--"The Mercy Seat"--was an epic litany relating the thoughts of a condemned prisoner awaiting his walk to the electric chair. "The Mercy Seat" is Cave and his Bad Seeds at their best: the former leavening his mordant tale with grim wit ("A ragged cup, a twisted mop . . . the face of Jesus in my soup"), the latter conjuring an appropriately demented squall of electric guitars and violins. Tender Prey was a massively important album for Cave: for the first time, he is unabashed about projecting his bleak and often misunderstood sense of humor and his ability to write as good a pop tune as anyone. Tender Prey is the beginning of Cave's voyage toward acceptance by the general public and perhaps himself. Everything good he's done since--and there's been an impressive amount--starts here. --Andrew Mueller
"This is, without a doubt, Cave & The Seeds' best album up to this point, and many insist that it is their best to this day. It is the culmination of everything that they had been working toward up to this point, as good as ever, but more refined, better-sounding, smoother, in a word: better. This is their masterpiece. The Mercy Seat kicks things off and is one of the most astonishing songs I've ever heard in my life. The lyrics, matched with the crashing, momentum-gaining backdrop combine with the end result of one of the most intense song in Nick's or anyone else's catalog. This is simply one of the most powerful narraritives in contemporary music. This is one of the few songs that truly cannot be described-it has to be heard to be believed. To be sure, this is the highpoint of the album, but there are other highlights. Up Jumped The Devil is a pleasant rollicking, tongue-in-cheek tune of the type that Cave often indulges in. Deanna sounds like a 50's beach-ballad gone Satanic. Most of the rest of the album consists of Cave's trademark slow, brooding piano-led ballads, and the ones included here are some of his best ever. The seemingly upbeat, by contrast, and eminently beautiful song New Morning closes the album on a very nice note. Skip the shorter, tacked-on version of the Mercy Seat, it cannot top the original, and only serves to uproot the album's climax. However, the meat of the album (everything but it) is excellent, and serve to make this CD, surely, one of the most underrated out there. Essential."
Light Sparked By Darkness
Bill R. Moore | 05/05/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This record was a massive influence on me back in the day. True, it's a bit dated now, but at times it is a vivid example of what Nick Cave does best. Namely, making great pop songs out mankind's darker impulses. If the kids on American Bandstand ever heard "Deanna", they might say, "it has a great beat & you can dance to it!" Even if it might serve as the soundtrack to serial killer, Charles Starkweather's 1950's spree. "Mercy Seat" is a classic in Cave cannon. The fact that Johnny Cash recently deigned to cover it to stunning perfection on SOLITARY MAN is all the proof one needs. My personal favorites are, "Up Jumped The Devil" & "So Slowly Goes The Night". "Devil" not only features an infectious groove, but the lyrics are flat out hilarious. A perfect example of Cave's unique brand of black humor. I mean, who can resist a line like, "blacker than the chambers of a dead nun's heart"? On "Night" he sounds drunker than Shane Macgowan at 3 a.m. He seems to be channeling his inner Dino on this one. Cave's singing is so atrociously off-key, not to mention gleefully lugubrious, that it would do any Holiday Inn lounge lizard proud. But with closer inspection, you can actually hear the sound of a man eating his heart right off his sleeve. In truth, it's the lyrics that save the day. They are as devastingly honest as they are poetic. The whole thing's pure magic in my book. The closer, "New Morning" is the other classic on this record. I love how he compares the moon & the stars (of one night too many) to "the troops that laid conquored". So, who says poetry is dead? Some listeners out there might as well be.As for the rest, "City Of Refuge", "Alice" & "Mercy" each have their charms to commend them. "Sunday's Slave" & "Sugar, Sugar, Sugar" may not rank as Cave's most compelling work, but they don't bog the proceedings down. I just wouldn't count them among my reasons for coming back to this record. So TENDER PREY is a mixed, well dated affair. But at day's end, it makes for a memorable cocktail. For my money, it makes light out of career sparked by darkness."
The very best album from one of modern music's very best
Bill R. Moore | 11/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm no tourist when it comes to Nick. From The Birthday Party's essential recordings to "The Boatman's Call"...I am no stranger to the genius that is Cave. This, however, was, is, and always will be THE quintessential album by Cave and the Seeds. "The Mercy Seat"? My God...does music come any more powerful than this? For the sake of mankind, I hope not...I don't think we could handle it."
Cave's Best Album!! Moody and Rockin'!!
Coleen | Down in the alley | 02/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album always makes me think of East Berlin, when there was an East Berlin. Gloomy Artiste at Work in Desolate City...however, I'm not even sure if was recorded there (in 1987-8). The songs range from the searingly intense "Mercy Seat" to the punk rocker "Deana" to the impishly wicked "Up Jumped the Devil" to the mournful, pleading "Have Mercy", etc. Half these songs rock and half are very moody and melodic, with pretty piano lines way up in the mix. Nick's voice is in top demonic/tender crooner form throughout, and this album is as cool as the black and red motif of the CD cover picture. One of the greatest albums of the 1980's, and in my opinion, this is Nick's finest work. It's wicked, it's fun, it's pretty, all at once. It's an ABSOLUTE MUST if you like Nick Cave!"
The winding clock holds many marks
S. R Robertson | Oh Henry? | 12/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is probably my favorite Nick Cave album. Musically, it's very diverse going from intense rock ("The Mercy Seat", "Deaana", "City Of Refuge") to beautiful increasingly melancholy ballads ("Watching Alice", "Mercy", "Slowly Goes The Night") to middle ground territory ("Up Jumped The Devil"), but all with an extremely dark, isolated, scenic atmosphere that only Nick Cave could conjure. Americana, Piano ballad, Gospel, old 50's rhythm and blues, and uncategoirzable...all are on full display here. Cave's music is so starkingly original and relentlessly emotional in its melancholy that he exists in a world all to his own, and is 10 times more dark than any dumb metal band or cheesy goth artist. His lyrics are equally powerful, ranging from pure stories of horror and redemption to more isolated tales of desire and depression. Listening to this sounds like listening to a troubadour from the anarchic remains of the world. If that sounds like something you can handle, then dive right in."