Out of Obscurity

There was a time when discovering unknown music was simple: you simply ran down the the local used CD store and find something you had never heard of. You’d find some new music, take it home, listen to it, fall in love with it, and brag about it. “Hey, have you heard of [insert unknown band name here]?”

“Nope. Who are they?”

“Found them at [insert local used CD shop’s name here].”

*hand headphones to buddy*

“WHOA. These guys are incredible.”

That was a relatively short time ago.

Music and file sharing in general has led to an exponential decrease in the “ability” to find new music that no one’s heard of. At least in your own circle of friends, however large or small that may be. An example of this is Heather–a girl I used to work with. She favors the more mellow, sometimes acoustic sound. I fired off as many a relaxing band: Air, Mew, Bat for Lashes, Folk Implosion, Halloween Alaska, Howling Bells, Sparklehorse, The Olive League … even Scarlett Johannson.  She had heard of ALL of them. Not some … all. I was rather blown away. I pride myself on my music collection. It’s divers, it’s ecclectic, and I used to think I had some obscure stuff. Heather’s collection blows mine away.

One band I’ve been hung up on lately is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. He’s not necessarily obscure, but ask around and see who’s actually heard of him. Better yet, check local music shops. See how many actually have his CDs in their new material. 

Imagine the anti-thesis of Suzanne Vega. Her music is peppy, positive, light, and fun. Nick Cave’s … polar opposite. Except for the fun. It’s AMAZING fun. If you’re into “Murder Folk” music with a gospel twist, he’s your man. He has a real penchant for writing about death–specifically in saloons, in bar fights, down by the river.

Here’s the best part: he’s been around for well over 35 years. And you’ve probably never heard of him. Or at least, you’ve probably never heard a single song of his.

I highly recommend checking out his stuff. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I prefer my CD covers have some kind of artsy feel to them. Cave CDs generally have some image of him on the front. Typically, that’s a red flag in my book. Don’t let this fool you. The music warrants the vanity. To his credit, his later CDs (ex: Abbatoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus) dispose of the self-aggrandizing visage cover and embraces minimalist art. Coincidentally (?), this happens to be my favorite CD of his. The music is at its strongest. Track 2, “Cannibal’s Hymn,” is disturbing. Actually, most of what he writes is un-nerving. You have to wonder what kind of childhood he went through to come up with some of the stuff he writes. I mean, yah … most musical artists pour some of their angry youth into their music. Those artists are typically in their early 20s, and the anger is still relatively fresh. Nick Cave is 52, and he’s been performing since the early 70s.

Anger-y? Good question. He has some sweet love songs, too. Take, for example “Where the Wild Rose Grows” Here are the lyrics.


They call me The Wild Rose
But my name was Elisa Day
Why they call me it I do not know
For my name was Elisa Day

From the first day I saw her I knew she was the one
As she stared in my eyes and smiled
For her lips were the colour of the roses
They grew down the river, all bloody and wild

When he knocked on my door and entered the room
My trembling subsided in his sure embrace
He would be my first man, and with a careful hand
He wiped the tears that ran down my face


On the second day I brought her a flower
She was more beautiful than any woman I’d seen
I said, ‘Do you know where the wild roses grow
So sweet and scarlet and free?’

On the second day he came with a single rose
Said: ‘Will you give me your loss and your sorrow?’
I nodded my head, as I lied on the bed
He said, ‘If I show you the roses will you follow?’


On the third day he took me to the river
He showed me the roses and we kissed
And the last thing I heard was a muttered word
As he stood smiling above me with a rock in his fist

On the last day I took her where the wild roses grow
And she lay on the bank, the wind light as a thief
As I kissed her goodbye, I said, ‘All beauty must die’
And lent down and planted a rose between her teeth

Hmm. Actually, that’s pretty morbid. OH WAIT. That’s Nick Cave. 🙂

Like I said, I highly recommend.

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