Recorded partially in West Berlin, tracks like “The Carny” immediately conjure up the ghosts of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. The brooding “Sad Waters” and ethereal “Stranger Than Kindness” are evidence of the band’s affection for Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. In turn, Nick Cave and his mates’ ripple effect on the contemporary music scene extends for miles. A number of songs by the likes of National, PJ Harvey, and Mark Lanegan come to mind when listening to Your Funeral… My Trial.
Few rock bands have so thoroughly mined the thematic caverns of mournful introspection and relentless suffering as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Your Funeral… My Trial serves asan early example of why many filmmakers continue to be drawn to Cave’s melancholy and sometimes violent dreamscapes. For an interesting experiment, cue up Your Funeral.. My Trial and watch just about any episode of HBO’s “Westworld” with the volume turned down. It’s eerie how well the existential series’ intense imagery and album’s hypnotic music sync with one another.
When Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds first gathered at Berlin’s Hansa Tonstudio—where David Bowie and Iggy Pop recorded Low, Heroes, and Lust for Life nearly a decade earlier—they were at their mental and physical limits. At the half-way point of a nearly 20-year-long struggle with heroin addiction, Cave pushed through chaotic sessions held together with the help of British producer Mark Ellis (better known as Flood) and the band’s multi-instrumentalist, Mick Harvey.
Such circumstances make Your Funeral… My Trial’s technical polish and cohesive vision all the more remarkable. Elaborate production on standout tracks like “The Carny,” with glockenspiel and keyboards creating a broken calliope effect, gives the impression the songs were the results of countless perfectionistic re-takes. In fact, the entire album was finished in just a few weeks and continued Cave and Harvey’s move beyond the brooding, highly aggressive, goth-punk neighborhood they helped shape with their previous band, the Birthday Party. Indeed, while the mood of Your Funeral… My Trial skews dark, it shows a band employing a more varied set of paints. After the group’s release of 1986’s Kicking Against the Pricks, an expectation-defying collection of cover songs by artists like Jimmy Webb and Tom Jones, it seems only natural that Cave and Harvey began taking a similar approach to their own material.
Longtime Cave collaborator and engineer Tony Cohen managed the final mixing at London’s Strongroom studio. The record’ organic sonics stand out next to the synthetic sound quality of many other rock artists’ work during the mid 80s. Instruments emerge from the mix in three-dimensional fashion on “She Fell Away,” stamping the song’s tension-filled, staccato pulse with an expansive scope. Which brings us to the 2014 vinyl remaster overseen by Harvey in 2009. While our U.S. review copy is generally quiet, minor pops occur on one side of each 45 RPM disc. Additionally, both discs are slightly warped, causing noticeable tonearm bobbing on the outermost tracks.
As for the remaster, it proves a mixed bag. On “Sad Waters,” Harvey’s gorgeously melodic bass lines feel less prominent than on the German pressing. But Cave’s staggered vocals, Harvey’s drums, and Blixa Bargeld’s guitar work are somewhat clearer. Nonetheless, the original pressing wins out for being slightly more holographic and emotionally compelling—and for providing more analog warmth and stage dimension. It also comes with lyrics, a vintage pornographic sketch, and helpful liner notes on the insert sleeves.
That said, fans who’ve never heard or seen an original German pressing will likely find the current remaster satisfying. It certainly bests any digital version available, even if it lacks the superiority of a near-mint analog original.
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