Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Fri, Feb 15, 2013, 00:00

Push the Sky AwayBad Seed Ltd ****

Nick Cave’s preoccupations on this record involve anxiety about the impact of the internet and the weight of emotional and spiritual breakdown – in other words, the long narrative of loss.

It begins understatedly with We No Who U R, a sloping meditation on the online world and its moral relativism. The song is accompanied by delicate yet driving guitars and wobbly keys reminiscent of the “dew in the morning light” that Cave sings of, and which feature on What Lovely Eyes, complementing its choral aspect.

As Cave warms to his themes, he growls, and Water’s Edge repositions him as the preacher he so often channels. In the midst of his homily on conflict (“the will of love, the thrill of love, ah but the chill of love”), Warren Ellis’s violin flits and flies, providing a sense of yearning, and which We Real Cool expands on, albeit with feral guitars amid more formal piano. Jubilee Street is evocative of Codeine, with slow-moving guitars and elements of grunge and even folk informing an epic song full of changing time signatures, and Ellis’s strings, so searing and subtle. The bluesy Finishing Jubilee Street is a kind of meta-song; revisiting older themes and work, and the frailty of creating art.

Cave has always mingled diverse references. In Higgs Boson Blues, Robert Johnson is clothed in heavy guitars, and the gaudy image of yellow leather shoes is offset by mention of Hannah Montana, building to a clattering crescendo.

Push the Sky Away is a reaction and coda to the past, with the title song reflecting on the ecstasy and exhaustion of life. The record’s fleshy realism folds in the departure of Mick Harvey, and the poignancy of The Boatman’s Call, with Mermaids distilling what remains interesting and true – the promise of wonder. As Cave sings, “I believe in God, I believe in mermaids, too . . . I believe in the rapture”. nickcave.comSIOBHÁN KANE

Download:We No Who U R, Jubilee Street, Mermaids

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