Cave, Nick: From Her to Eternity LP
The fact that Nick Cave opened his new outfit’s first album with a cover of a Leonard Cohen song, the delusional visionary brooding of "Avalanche," was a sign that he had moved in for good to what Cohen would later call ‘the tower of song’. Cohen’s original had appeared on Songs of Love and Hate, an album whose title sounds like a manifesto for Cave’s solo career.
The narrative art that Cave had begun to master in the later days of The Birthday Party flourishes on 1984's From Her To Eternity, in the sick humor of "Wings Off Flies" (in which a lovesick protagonist plays ‘she loves me, she loves me not’ with an unfortunate insect), and "A Box For Black Paul" (an examination of whose demise could possibly be interpreted as a funeral inquest for The Birthday Party), and the cautionary Mississippi tale of "Saint Huck" who ‘trades in the mighty Old Man River/ For the Dirty Old Man Latrine’.
Cave had first explored an American South of the imagination in "Swampland"; but if some lyrics showed Cave the Wild Colonial Boy in a psycho-geographic realm that had previously intrigued other non-Southerners (for example, Canadians Neil Young and the Band’s Robbie Robertson), musically From Her to Eternity sounded like nothing ever heard hitherto.
Blixa Bargeld (recruited from the Berlin experimentalists Einstürzende Neubauten, who were more associated with chains and pneumatic drills than conventional instruments) plays the guitar like someone who had never seen this strange six-string thing before. “I don’t really think he knows how to play in the conventional sense at all,” Cave enthused at the time, “he just makes these incredible sounds”. Mick Harvey’s unique abilities as an arranger sculpted the sound into something that was as expressive as it was violent.
The album’s high point is its title track in which sound and imagery come together to create an extraordinary emotional rawness, that hint at what was to come much later on the stark, lovesick vistas ofThe Boatman’s Call. Cave was always reluctant to discuss the real-life background to "From Her to Eternity" although he did rather invite the questions by putting his ex-girlfriend Anita Lane (who shares co-songwriting credit for the song) on the cover. The song’s protagonist, twisted with jealousy watches the plaster of his ceiling turn into coiling serpents as he strains for the sounds of his departed love in the room above ‘I know it might sound absurd,’ sings Cave, ‘but I can hear the most melancholy sound I ever heard’.
Although From Her to Eternity was recorded in the UK at Trident, Berlin was part of its sonic makeup, not least in the contribution of native Berliner Blixa Bargeld, as was Southern Blues, although this influence is more explicit in the follow up album, The Firstborn Is Dead. And out of the ashes of the Birthday Party, some scratched old records by southern bluesmen, and the last days of the divided Berlin, something new was born.