Revisiting the enigmatic “Your Funeral … My Trial” by Nick Cave

Nick Cave spent much of his time with The Birthday Party parodying the overloaded goth-rock bands of the late ’70s and early’ 80s, but with Your funeral … my trial, the fourth studio album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the joke has passed over everyone. It’s such a lightless album that it could just as easily have been recorded underground. And yet, all these years later, it’s still one of Nick Cave’s most enduring and accessible records.

By 1986, Nick Cave had successfully transitioned from leading a band widely hailed as one of the most chaotic, destructive, and downright violent live bands in the world, to one of the most enduring. After The Birthday Party’s demise in 1983, Cave moved from his native Australia to a cold, concrete-clad West Berlin. In the midst of an all-too-familiar smack habit, Cave and the band released a series of albums with increasingly sinister titles; starting with The firstborn is dead (1985) – heavily influenced by Southern Gothic writers – and making their way to the relatively merry Kick Against Stings (1986).

Cave’s popularity continued to grow and was finally galvanized with the release of 1986 Your funeral … My trial, an album which expresses not the false melancholy pushed by most of the gothic-rock outfits of the time, but something indisputably, unspeakably dark. It’s all there in the second track, ‘The Carney’; a song that sounds half like inky mud and half like a Vaudeville nightmare. It forms the centerpiece of a record that, when prized open, reveals the kind of meticulous assembly of miniaturized cogs found under the wooden lids of children’s music boxes. According to producer Flood (Mark Ellis), the rest of the album suddenly came to light when Cave started working on “The Carny” at the start of production at Hansa Studios in Berlin – the same studio that gave birth to to David Bowie’s masterpiece, “Heroes”.

“I remember Mick Harvey coming into the studio with the guts of an old grand piano, that was the basis of the sound,” Cave recalled once. “It was just the ropes, tied to a metal frame. He would tune certain notes and use a guitar pick to choose the notes. He then ended up as “The Carny”. It was the first day of recording Your funeral … My trial, and that set the tone for the whole record.

For some, the sound of Your funeral … my trial was quite rude. For others, it was a gift. Despite Cave using his time with The Birthday Present to kick off a series of, what he described as deliberate piss-pissing on goth-rock bands, in a somewhat ironic turn of events, Your funeral … My trial was celebrated by the Gothic scene and inspired a whole new generation of bands who held Cave’s tearful mix of avant-rock in high regard.

Looking back, it’s a record that seems to foreshadow not only the rise of exploratory guitar-based genres such as shoegaze – which in the UK was already emerging from the traces left by The Jesus And Mary Chain – but also something Cave thing would come up time and time again in his own career: The Twisted Love Ballad. In ‘Stranger Than Kindness’, for example, Cave sings: “You cares yourself / And grind my soft / cold bones below / Your map of desire. ”

In these words, the constant push-pull between death and sex that sets the material on Your funeral … My trial is clear as day (or dark as night, depending on your preference). And it is this duality that makes even the most poignant of Cave’s vignettes strangely tender, perhaps even joyful. So, while it may seem gnarly and bitter on the surface, once you’re safe inside that bizarre and intricate music box of an album, you’re sure to hear the sweet beat of an album. beating heart.

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