Friday, February 8, 2013
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away
This is Nick Cave's 15th album with his post Birthday Party band. So there has been some time on this journey for the Goth sound of yesteryear to be transformed into something closer to a homage to Leonard Cohen, one of Cave's idol's. The idolatry is evident from the first song and the lead off single that was released back in December "We No Who U R". On this song and throughout the album Warren Ellis' loops give a slightly U2 feel to things. Cave said if this album is his Ghost baby these loops are the heart beat that keeps it going in the incubator. While mature and sedate , the song is well put together, Cave knows where he voice needs to go, there less crooning and more spoken word feel, though his vocal chords loosen a bit on "Wide Lovely Eyes". There is a smoothness to the songwriting which Cave has always excelled at but there is an extra slick sheen to it. I also here a little Neil Diamond here, which I have been accusing Brendan Perry of for years, but here it more in the phrasing, and it's not as bad as it sounds , in fact it leaves the song pretty flawless.
"Water's Edge" gives things a darker tone that it needed. Cave's voice dips down into his gravelly lower register here and sounds great down there. He said he wrote most of the lyrics after reading the most bizarre stories he could find on Wikipedia, here the story telling is as evident as it was back on "Murder Ballads". "Jubilee Street" relaxes after the tension of the song before it. There is some excellent guitar work on this song , which is fairly straight forward Americana. His lyrics are clever and well timed, they set up the string swell which ushers in the pace picking up, with the sort of cinematic dynamics Cave's dabbling in Hollywood might have aided the theater of his mind.
"Mermaids" which carries the line " fire up her snatch" is balance the elusive sexuality with a crudeness, though the tides ebb and flow wins out here. While a master song crafter, the lyrics continue to surprise me through out the album. There Bono like phrasing , makes me suspect he's been listening to more U2 than he should, the first time I heard I though it was just my ears, but it's more than coincidence. The fat bass line that winds up "We Real Cool" brings in a sense of danger, to the questions Cave's lyrics , which have a sense of confrontation like his is interrogating a lover. The bookish melody in the phrase which roughly serves as the chorus graces the song with a more multidimensional emotional context.
"Finishing Jubilee Street" is a narrative of a dream he had after writing the song. There is a certain dream like quality to if perhaps the dream was penned by William S Burroughs. The female vocals do soften the feel whe the come in midway. I do think it shines a light in the darkness that I would rather have left off so I can sulk in its gloom but hey that's me. The return of bassist Barry Adamson is really felt on this one.
"Higgs Boson Blues" has a smoky feel it , it has the feel of a languid afternoon drinking in New Orleans, which says something as Cave's songwriting invokes imagery of seedy bars and narcotic sluggishness. The build is very gradual I noticed it at about three minutes in. the drums start to solidify this after another minute. It's these layers that are eased in keep even my mind spoiled from too much progressive rock as there aren't any changes in riffing per se, until the release in the last two minutes of the rather ambitious album. If I didn't know that Bowie was releasing an album I would say this is the best songwriting you're going to hear all year, but Cave has raised the bar for him.
The title track closes the album. His voice against the keyboard swell is very cocoon like, the melody is very subtle and the female background vocals refrain from bringing that sunshine I complained about earlier, which is the only negative thing I have thought about this album and it's so brief it will more than likely grow on me so I'll go ahead and give this album a 10. At first I thought so thesis what adult contemporary is going to sound like the the next wave of aging goths who go over the hill, but Cave has aged gracefully on this, play on rainy morning with hangovers and on dark nights of the soul when farming said hang over while smoking a pack of cloves.