Review Summary: Revitalising his own sound through the medium of resurrection.
For someone as fascinated with death as Nick Cave, it was only a matter of time before he’d also have to consider life. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
is as close as he is ever going to get to about that again, and if anyone remembers his cover of Dylan’s “Death is Not the End” that came so close to optimism (forgetting that the word death still counted as gloomy), that is a feat indeed. As 2008 opens, he and his to-the-side pessimists seem to have revived themselves from their vacuum of five years without a record, managed to write a happier (less rampageous) collection of songs about pain, and recount a few natural storytelling blends. And what makes the New York City church tales even more impressive is simply that, no matter how much he wants to talk about demise, Cave still hasn’t aged a bit.
For all his faint, disturbing whispers of I’m not your favourite lover
and whatnot that look quite thoughtless laid down on paper, the key is held in Cave’s presentation. For the most part, the most suitable thing to do is lose all sense of preciseness; dropping charm in favour of sleaze for the vast majority of Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
is an obvious ploy, but it doesn’t take away the zest of heavily breathing “I mean, he never asked to be raised up from the tomb - nobody ever ASKED him to forsake his dreams”
- and it definitely doesn’t make Cave sound any less emotionally perplexed. With this seedy, emotive attitude instigated from the album’s title opener, Cave is already on his way to writing a blockbuster.
And while the album’s spooky flow obviously goes just as that, each of Lazarus’s rambles are bombastic enough to supply a brisker, less captivatingly painful record by Cave’s standards. Whereas Murder Ballads
, for example, sits you down in a room and makes you feel small concerning how much you know about murderers, rapists, and both combined, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
is while still an almost theatrical concept, supplied with a little more whimsy and a little less fascination with death. Or, at least it’s a more cheerful type of death, because Cave’s 2008 incarnation strips away the pure funeral march nature of his music and summons an overload of black comedy (something he’s infinitely good at already, as most fans know) – “We Call Upon the Author” proves this recent perception of evil to be super in itself, with horrific lines like Hang on my friend Doug is tapping on the window/he brings me a book on holocaust poetry (complete with pictures) and then tells me to get ready for the rain
angrily riddled out with contradictory cheeriness (“Hey Doug, how ya been"”
sticking to the classless brilliance).
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
fashions itself into so many different monuments and documents while never actually leaving its contemporary American setting (as intended, obviously), so its important to remember that each and every step on and off the compass has a supplement of brooding of rock music behind it. This is most noticeable when, not content with simply resurrecting his very own miracle-devoid version of Lazarus, Cave opts to bring his morbid sentimentality back, and the ghost towns of minds he talks about when he claims Factories close and cars go cruisin’ as Jesus makes the flowers grow
. Suddenly this tune is an oddity; instead of lending from the lumbering leader’s dominating vocals, a blossoming backdrop of amplified, wandering guitar riffs making this dying moment in the album (with a little more closure, it would make a better end to the album than “More News From Nowhere ever could) the most candid yet. Again, in the similar albeit pantomimic “Jesus Of The Moon”, strings and piano are brushed together to intensify some already crass lyricism on Cave’s part – he’s still dribbling it out, but The game is never won by standing in one given place
manages to cover moral tales as well.
With an overpoweringly absorbing protagonist stuck amidst catchy post punk rhythms, it’s hard to wonder what concept Cave doesn’t want to delve into. Even when he’s churning out shocking thoughts on the phenomenon of Jesus from verse to verse, he’s still content to boastfully rasp Everybody’s coming round to my place
in his quick choruses. This is how Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
fulfils its promise – for whatever historical, legendary impact it discovers with its listener, Lazarus is still confined to New York City’s thriving lifestyle. So actually, no matter how lost in time he is, Cave still makes his character sound about as at home as he ever will be.