Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Album review: NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS - Push The Sky Away

Highlights: We Know Who U R, Mermaids, We Real Cool, Higgs Boson Blues

I’m not at all sure that Push The Sky Away will scrape into my imaginary Nick Cave top 10 (it might; for me, the experience is very much on par with Your Funeral… My Trial), but with each new listen I am becoming more and more addicted to this album. Push The Sky Away sounds like the sort of therapy Cave needed after the wild onslaught of Grinderman and even The Bad Seeds’ latest, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (this album is pretty much stuck in that beautiful, mournful “Jesus Of The Moon” vibe). And however much I love the screaming, rip-roaring Cave, there’s just no denying that he always had the knack for writing a haunting, striking ballad.

Push The Sky Away is all about that. So much so that it might remind one of the mellow, slow-burning charm of The Boatman’s Call (16 years ago! Christ!) – except that this album is somewhat edgier. Not as soft. And with slightly weaker melodies.

The album sounds sparse (there are pianos, violins, lots of bass – and hardly much lushness) and very pretty; also, almost understated by Cave’s usual standards. But the man is an expert songwriter (who, interestingly, treats songwriting as an office job), and his songs are consistently good. I could see why someone would feel that “Finishing Jubilee Street” is expendable or find it hard to hang on to the melody of “Wide Lovely Eyes”, but even those have Cave’s unmistakable charisma and stamp of songwriting authority. Besides, Push The Sky Away is very much a mood record, and I’d say that everything falls into place.

However, like most mood-oriented albums, Push The Sky Away isn’t really made up of knock-out songs. If there’s a true Nick Cave classic to pull out of the record, it would be the intense 8-minute ballad “Higgs Boson Blues”. Typical minimalist epic from Cave, but he still has that remarkable power to sound so intriguing and convincing without doing much.

The others are just average great Nick Cave songs.

Which, let’s admit, is good enough. It was of course sad to see Mick Harvey go (just for the record: Sketches From The Book Of The Dead was a better album), but that shouldn’t distract you from the fact that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have added another winner to their rather immaculate catalogue.


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