Sunday, 10 March 2013

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Push the Sky Away

Artist: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Album: Push The Sky Away
Record Label: Bad Seed Ltd.

Fractious and dark, Nick Cave & Co.'s 15th is the kind of surreal masterpiece only they could make

It’s interesting that, perhaps unconsciously, on the closing song (the title track) to his 15th album with The Bad Seeds Nick Cave has dealt us a mantra that almost entirely summarises his career. “You know it’s only rock ‘n’ roll/ But it gets you right down to your soul” he muses over a stirring, reflective synth drone. At its most speculative it could seem that this is a level of narcissism that Cave has only exposed now. More likely however is that over the course of 30 years Cave’s metaphysical, frequently prophetic murmurings are based on experiences that have rocked him to his core, and thus the listener also.

The world of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds has always been idiosyncratic, and “Push The Sky Away” finds them revelling in that perhaps more than ever, certainly more than their previous project, 2008’s “Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!” which in comparison was fairly accessible. That’s not to say however that the emotion that swamps this record isn’t tangible. It’s entirely moving.

Said emotion is pushed to the fore on almost every track here, thanks to a rigid structure applied encompassing repetition, building intensity and pensiveness often to conclude on a head crushingly dextrous and layered finale. Nowhere is this more pertinent than on “Jubilee Street”, which stands as one of the finest songs they’ve written in years. It’s trajectory is propelled by a gorgeously bleak guitar line and flushes of soaring, melancholy before the sky touching closing minute brings it to a beautifully noisy close.

“We No Who U R” merges a shimmering, mesmerising keyboard chord sequence with unnerving verbal threats from Cave; “And we know who you are/and we know where you live/ and we know there’s no need to forgive.” “Wide Lovely Eyes” tells the tale of a female protagonist embarking on a swim from which she doesn’t plan to return; “You wave and wave your wide lovely eyes/ you wave and say goodbye.”
“We Real Cool” is terrifying, with its spine chillingly dark bass line, demonic piano splutters and Cave intoning “who bought you new shoes and wrote you a book you never read?” bitterly. The 7 minute “Higgs Boson Blues” is, in character at least, similar to a William Blake poem; spontaneous memories, apocalyptic imagery and cryptic flow of consciousness as Cave sings “Here comes Lucifer with his cannon slung low, and 100 Black babies running from his genocidal jaws.”

There are times when “Push the Sky Away” feels both fragile and righteous, vulnerable but forthright in its own vision. Cave’s lyrics may occasionally take a few listens to decipher, but the narratives and instrumentals are completely engulfing and enshrouding, meaning that for these 9 tracks you are completely at one with Cave’s meandering mind. It’s a surreal masterpiece.

Key Tracks: Jubilee Street, Wide Lovely Eyes, Mermaids, Higgs Boson Blues

For fans of: Leonard Cohen, Tindersticks, Mark Lanegan Band


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