Review Summary: "And some people say it's just rock n' roll, but it gets you right down to your soul."
It’s been four years since Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ last album, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
, and the main man himself has since been hard at work. Composing several soundtracks, touring with the Bad Seeds, touring with Grinderman, writing screenplays, publishing a novel, releasing a sophomore album with Grinderman-- he has no doubt been a man who is hard to pin down; always busy with his passions. Returning to the studio to record his fifteenth album with the Bad Seeds, it’s obvious that Nick Cave isn’t slowing down any time soon. Consistently working on his art since the late 70s, not having taken any hiatuses in between album releases with his early post-punk bands The Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party through to his long-lasting career as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the drug fueled early decades of his career through to his time settling down and kicking his habits, it’s admirable how consistent and driven Cave is. But there is one major difference here: Push the Sky Away
is the first Bad Seeds album without long-time band member/musical collaborator Mick Harvey. While it’s evident that Harvey has always been an integral part of the band’s sound, it’s never quite certain where the band will head next. With Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
being a more Grinderman influenced type of garage rock album compared to his earlier work, it has never been foreseeable as to where Cave will take his music. Nick Cave, the Enigma and co. have once again brought forth an album that re-invents their sound and sits proudly in the wake of their prior classics.
Push the Sky Away
is perhaps the band’s most unique record to date, all the songs focusing largely on minimalism and repetition; the precise execution of the music slips by the listener as it takes several dedicated listens to dissect all its nuances. On first listen, one would never guess that the band boasts seven multi-instrumentalists in its line-up. And in conjunction with Cave’s style of either creating incredibly bleak or upbeat compositions, Push the Sky Away
falls into the former. The overall sound of the record brings some of Cave’s most impressive vocal work, which fits in sorrowfully with the downcast projections of the music. Though usually famed for his dark and even at times disturbing
song-writing, Cave is in a more poignant frame of creation here, whilst still maintaining his adept blend of storytelling and vocal expression.
It’s no secret that, much more over the last two decades, Nick Cave is a very sexual man. His lyrics more often than not ooze of sexual imagery and fantasy when he isn’t singing of death (actually, even when he’s singing of death), and 2013 hasn’t proved any different (in fact the album cover features Mr. Cave illuminating his naked wife, Susie Bick). This album is once more a hot spot for Cave’s undeniably unabashed sex-ridden tales, and while at times they work, at other times they’re not so elegantly implemented. The song ‘Mermaids’ featuring some poorly written lines at the beginning of the song, it’s hard to take Cave seriously as he sings, “she was a catch/and we were a match/I was the match that would fire up her snatch/there was a catch/I was no match/I was fired from her crotch/I sit around and watch.”
Though this is countered by some more well-constructed moments, the song ‘Water’s Edge’ featuring some of his most engaging lyricism, “they take apart their bodies like toys for the local boys/because they’re always there at the edge of the water/they come from the capital/these city girls go down where the stones meet the sea.” When he isn’t sexualising his lyrics, he occasionally sings of Internet culture, Wikipedia and even makes references to pop-culture figures like Hannah Montana. This is new territory and at first sounds a little awkward, but overall the small and edgy lyrics that may bother some are not a large detriment to the album and the diverse range of subject matters throughout all nine songs will strike a chord with a listener at some point.
As mentioned prior, Push the Sky Away
is an album based around repetition; nowhere in sight are the immediately complex and ever-shifting compositions found on albums like Let Love In
or No More Shall We Part
. All songs found here feature a single riff or melody that will embody the pace of each song, being repeated until the end. As the songs progress, ever-so-slight aesthetics and variations in instrumental performances are applied. Ranging from light drum beats and brushwork to soft violin tunes, the album features quite a large array of different sounds and instruments that’s it’s almost impossible to pick them all, sometimes songs build as a post-rock track would, building to a crescendo and crashing into a climax. Because of the large band and variety of instrumentation, it’s difficult to attribute the sounds to their corresponding musician. The album peaks on the last track, the title track, which closes the album off brilliantly with its ambient nature. The song contains gradual building synths and a slow but sure drum pound every few seconds. Cave sings mournfully and soft and is accompanied by female vocals that float neatly under his until the song draws to a close, leaving a feeling of astonishment and awe.
Throughout the record, there are so many moments, melodies and meticulously placed parts that it would be folly to try and re-imagine and give a nod to each one. What’s seen here is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds not only persevering without former member Mick Harvey, but thriving as if nothing has changed. The music is powerful, it’s thoughtful, it’s unique and it fits seamlessly with the rest of their discography. Always changing but continuing to stay true to a certain style, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have struck gold once again with Push the Sky Away