Nick Cave may not exactly be the sort you’d expect to play well with others. From his days with Aussie post-punk provocateurs the Birthday Party to his eventual ascendance as the dark prince of alt rock, he’s carefully crafted such a sinister vibe that even when he’s delivering a ballad you feel like he might just be taking a breather between stiletto assaults on unsuspecting pedestrians. There must be less misanthropy in Cave than one would suspect, though, because over the years he’s shared the spotlight with a strikingly wide variety of other artists. In anticipation of his upcoming album, Push the Sky Away (out next week via Bad Seed Ltd.), here’s a batch of duets featuring the original Bad Seed with some strangely appropriate singing partners.
1. Nick Cave with Shane MacGowan, “What a Wonderful World”
Did Nick step up to the microphone with notoriously shambolic Shane MacGowan for this Louis Armstrong chestnut (released as a one-off 1992 single) in order to seem like a Sinatra-esque smoothie by comparison, or did the notoriously sobriety-averse Pogues frontman simply grab his nearest drinking buddy for ballast and drag him along? In any case, it works in a raggedly righteous way.
2. Nick Cave with Neko Case, “She’s Not There”
When Cave was contacted by the folks behind True Blood, it’s easy to imagine that he expected an invitation to play a guest vampire (We wish!). But he still manages to bring plenty of creepiness to the table while playing beast to Neko Case’s beauty in this unsettling interpretation of a British Invasion hit by the Zombies (Who else?) for the show’s soundtrack.
3. Nick Cave with Kylie Minogue, “Where the Wild Roses Grow”
It seems likely that True Blood’s music consultant caught a glimpse of this video before deciding to call upon Cave. When dance-pop diva Kylie initially appeared as the voice from beyond the grave in this grim track from 1996’s Murder Ballads, eyebrows arched far and wide, but she makes a perfect victim for Cave’s homicidal antihero.
4. Nick Cave with Johnny Cash, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
Cave’s a longtime disciple of The Man in Black (he covered a Cash tune on 1986’s Kicking Against the Pricks), and he must have been gobsmacked at the prospect of sharing a song with Johnny for the latter’s swan song, American IV: The Man Comes Around. You have to wonder how these two baritone bad-asses decided who would take the low part.
5. Nick Cave with Debbie Harry, “Free To Walk”
The Marilyn Monroe of the New Wave era and the Edgar Allen Poe of indie rock walk into a [Gun Club founder] Jeffery Lee Pierce tribute album together, and the potent punchline is this rather bucolic ballad. Still, we can’t resist wondering what would have happened if Cave had decided to swap a few rhymes with Blondie belter Harry on a revamped “Rapture” or something.