"Murder Ballads has a title so obvious and self-defining, it's amazing that it took the Bad Seeds nine albums to use it. And the last thing you could accuse Cave of is false advertising: Dozens of characters lose their lives over the course of the album, which updates infamous folk tales like 'Stagger Lee' with enough profanity and gratuitous violence to satisfy the bloodlusty standards of the post-gangsta rap/Quentin Tarantino era.
But the Bad Seeds' most lyrically depraved record is also their most musically ornate and accessible, with the band expanding to accommodate Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis and former Cramps/Sonic Youth stickman Jim Sclavunos (as second percussionist), plus a pair of smoldering duets with PJ Harvey ('Henry Lee') and Kylie Minogue (the unlikely MTV hit 'Where the Wild Roses Grow'). In fact, with its densely detailed storylines, heart-racing epics ('Song of Joy', 'The Curse of Millhaven') and cheeky curtain-closing cover of Bob Dylan's born-again anthem 'Death Is Not the End', it's hard not to imagine Murder Ballads as some perverse, alternate-universe West End musical production. But look past its comically over-the-top presentation and you realize Cave isn't simply indulging in some subversive genre exercise. He was examining the very idea of poetic license, pushing the limits of what an artist can get away with in a song when writing in character."