Review Summary: Nick Cave kicks drugs, gets a hair cut and produces an average album
Over his past eleven albums with the Bad Seeds and two albums and one EP with the Birthday Party and even the one album Birthday Party album credited to The Boys Next Door, Nick Cave has been a prolific song writer who has produced a body of work that has been highly consistent. This is no mean feat. Cave has raised the bar so high in particular the seven albums from Tender Prey to No More Shall we part. It seemed like there was no way the man could misfire. Could there be such a thing as a bad album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds??? or even an average album? Well the answer is sadly yes. Nocturama is a blemish on an otherwise brilliant career. Is Nocturama a dud? well no it's an ok maybe even good album if it was produced by any other artist but the fact that it's Nick Cave and people have come to expect a certain standard. Part of the problem is that Cave has managed to subtly reinvent himself with each release.
Nocturama brings nothing new to the table much of the album feels like cuts or even b-sides from No More Shall We Part,Boat Man's Call and Let Love in. Nocturama is of course a reaction to the studied and more more tightly arranged No More shall we part where the piano was at the fore and the other musicians
had to work around it, only Warren Ellis seemed to thoroughly cut lose. On songs such as Oh my Lord during the epic close you can tell that Blixa and Mick were itching to take things up a notch or two.
Here things are a lot more looser, as it the band were playing live feeding off of each other rather than the very much studio based performance of the previous album. While this loose approach is good it feels like Cave is not yet comfortable with it and the album can be seen as very much as transition between the more piano based music to the looser more energetic songs on the double opus of Abattoir/ Lyre.
Opener Wonderful Life is a piano led ballad, while not Cave's strongest lyrics his voice aches with emotion underscored by Warren Ellis' voilin. It's a promising start but sadly quality noise dives with "He wants you" a country flavored ballad, it is not a terrible song but feels like b side material. Right out of your hand immediately redeems what has come before. It's a beautiful and tender love song with member of the Blockheads on backing vocals. It would have fitted perfectly on Boat Man's Call. Again it's Cave's piano and Warren Ellis' guitar that are at the fore in the mix. After three slow tempo songs the pace picks up with Bring it on where Chris Bailey of seminal Australia punk band The Saints proves vocals on the chorus. The band rock out in what feels like a very organic song with a live one take feel. It's an album highlight. Sadly rather than keep the quality levels the next song Dead man in my bed falls short. It recalls the garage rock of Deanna or Thirsty Dog or even Jangling Jack but this pales in comparison to these. Its not a bad song it's fun to listen to some great playing particularly by Blixa but there is something missing maybe it's Cave's throw away lyrics. Still in love is another slow love song where Cave teasingly mentions a Crime scene "Everybody's creeping around with plastic covers on their shoes, You're making coffee for everyone
concerned" before continuing to fawn over the object of his affections. Cave can write great love songs this is not one and particularly here it feels like he is parodying himself. There is a town is the second highlight of the album, a bitter sweet love letter to his home town in Australia. Warren's violin weaves between Cave's piano and Blixa's angled scratchy guitar. The song drips of the melancholy Cave can so expertly create. Rock of Gibraltar is a whimsical and fun song, a welcome change of pace. She passed by my window returns to the formulaic love song blue print Cave has laid down on this album. It's better than He wants you but would have been better placed at the start of album instead of He wants you. After a mainly pedestrian album the band let all hell break loose for the 14 minute plus Babe I'm on Fire. It's basically a Bad Seeds knees up and it's ridiculous brillant fun.
Right Out of Your Hand
Bring It On
There Is a Town
great playing from Warren, Mick and Blixa.
contains some of Cave's weakest song writing, some of the songs follow the same formula.