Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds — Reflecting on the 30th Anniversary of “Henry’s Dream” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds — Reflecting on the 30th Anniversary of “Henry’s Dream”

The Album First Came Out on April 27, 1992

Apr 27, 2022 Bookmark and Share

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ seventh album Henry’s Dream, despite its polarized fan reception and Cave’s own vocal disapproval of its production value, is a misunderstood masterpiece, remaining a significant transitional release for the group. The album, which saw Cave and his band officially leaning into the rusted phantasmagoria explored further on the subsequent Let Love In and Murder Ballads, boasts several of their finest tracks and introduced the influential post-punk outfit to a wider American audience. Each track is unique, while still contributing to the whole, which succeeds in evoking the loose dust of twilit backroads and hardscrabble encampments through which they pass. Cave’s songwriting expertise allow him to sculpt from the album’s grim narrative an assortment of martyrs, murderers, miracle workers, and wanderers, whose various tales remove the listener from the clutches of time, placing them deep within the album’s peculiar eventide.

Opening cut “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry” depicts an apocalyptic struggle between father and son, Cave breathing fire and brimstone into each lyric, singing, “And I bellowed at the firmament/Looks like the rains are here to stay/And the rain pissed down upon me/And washed me all away.” Cave’s abilities as a wordsmith are highlighted here, with such lines as, “Well, the moon it looked exhausted/Like something you should pity/Spent an age-spotted/Above the sizzling wires of the city” reminding us of his poetic grasp, his furious delivery crashing down like searing stars fallen from the belly of Heaven itself. “I Had a Dream, Joe,” which immediately follows the swelling wrath of “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry,” offers a brief reprieve from the chaos upon the wings of its warm faux-gospel introduction, before exploding into punk bluesy fury, the track’s demented revivalist sympathies casting a supernatural light across the album’s stage, Cave inquiring, “Where did you go, Joe?/With that strew of wreckage/Forever at the heel of your boot.”

This is succeeded by the triumphant “Straight to You,” easily one of the group’s greatest songs. Cave, an understated master of the epic love ballad, speaks his vows with such conviction: “Gone are the days of rainbows/And gone are the nights of swinging from the stars,” before assuring that “the sea will swallow up the mountains/And the sky will throw thunderbolts and sparks/Straight at you, but I’ll come running.” One of Cave’s most accessible and (dare one suggest) pop-oriented tracks, “Straight to You” is a ’90s alt gem, still loaded with prophetic electricity and grand romantic determination. Mick Harvey and the late Conway Savage’s contributions on the organ account for much of the album’s charm, adding atmospheric flourishes to various tracks, though such efforts are no better realized than on standout “Christina the Astonishing”—a dreamlike account of the young Belgian orphan’s iconic resurrection and its subsequent impact on Christian mythology. The track is a slow burner, easily overlooked upon first listen, but eventually reveals itself as one of Cave’s key offerings. Likewise, the emotionally raw “When I First Came to Town” and bleak folk ballad “Loom of the Land” remain vastly underrated. The former, a heart-wrenching duet with Savage, is especially remarkable, boasting the unique sense of weary nostalgia central to Cave’s ’90s output.

Three decades on, Henry’s Dream remains worthy of consideration. The debut appearances of Savage and bassist Martyn P. Casey provide a necessary bite, distinguishing the album from previous releases and placing it into competition with Murder Ballads and The Boatman’s Call. The effort remains a quintessential Cave album, serving as a vehicle for both the singer and his band to explore heavier musical and literary influences. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds recorded some of their most inspired material in the ’90s, and Henry’s Dream remains rich with such creative energy. Revisit Henry’s Dream and steal away to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ vagabond afterworld, its rolling hills and naked sundowns evoked as vividly tonight as they were in 1992.

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