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Probably not even Nick Cave imagined when forming the Bad Seeds after the Birthday Party broke up that his new band would not only still be kicking 14 years later, but would also be the subject of a “Best of” compilation. This collection culls tracks from nine of the Bad Seeds’ 10 studio offerings. The songs aren’t presented in any chronological order, but attentive listeners can still chart the progression in both Cave’s lyrics and the Bad Seeds’ music. The earlier work has a much rougher sound that mirrors the Birthday Party’s post-punk approach. The songs differ lyrically from later tracks in their focus more on fictional themes: the mini-drama confronting the traveling circus in “The Carny,” the reflections of a convicted killer as he declares, “In a way I’m yearning to be done/With all this measuring of proof/An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth/And anyway I told the truth/And I’m not afraid to die” on “The Mercy Seat.” As time passed, Cave moved away from the fantastic and grotesque and began to explore more personal themes—love, loss, and redemption. Musically, too, the band grew introspective, in a move that culminated in the stripped-down sound of 1997’s The Boatman’s Call, from which this collection presents “Into My Arms” and “(Are You) the One That I’ve Been Waiting For?” With this later material, Cave came into his own, with startlingly beautiful lyrics such as “And I don’t believe in the existence of angels/But looking at you I wonder if that’s true/But if I did I would summon them together/And ask them to watch over you.” New listeners will be busily searching the band’s backlists and waiting for fresh stuff to arrive.

—Niall Brennan