Album of the week: The Cavemen
Published 15/02/2013 | 18:00
Nick cave and the bad seeds Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd)
Say what you like about Nick Cave, but don't accuse him of being lazy. When he's not releasing albums with the Bad Seeds, he's unleashing frenzied music under the Grinderman moniker and writing singularly strange novels.
Keeping track of his output is no easy task, but for the record, this is his 15th Bad Seeds album and his 20th overall (that includes his first band, The Wedding Present).
Cave has long had a strong visual aesthetic and this album's cover art is certainly striking: the naked woman who is pictured with him is his wife, ex-model Susie Bick, and the high-ceilinged room with the enormous windows happens to be the bedroom of their English home.
He's clearly done well for himself on every level.
But Push the Sky Away makes for a frustrating listen. On the one hand, there are a handful of tracks that confirm his standing as a daring songwriter who's not afraid to take a leap into the unknown. But, on the other, there are songs that sound like uninspired retreads of material he has previously released.
First the good: the most obvious starting point is the track that holds the enterprise together.
Jubilee Street is an evocative account of a young prostitute whose trade is harmed "when the Russians move in". Its dark lyrics – he sings of "a foetus on a leash" – combined with the stirring music long since patented by the Bad Seeds makes for an arresting listen.
Its final third is especially dramatic as the guitars and strings build into an intoxicating climax.
The song's explicit video, meanwhile, is a cut above the norm and was directed by long-term Cave collaborator John Hillcoat, whose movie credits includes The Road.
The other standout is Mermaids, a song which demonstrates Cave's lyrical prowess. Its early sexually suggestive words soon make way for a moving meditation on life and beauty – and all set to a sumptuous sonic backdrop.
These highlights show how far off the mark he is elsewhere.
Higgs Boson Blues – named, for those of us not up on our physics, after an elementary particle – starts off promisingly but ends up resembling a Grinderman B-side.
And Finishing Jubilee Street, in which Cave ruminates on a dream he experienced after penning the aforementioned song boasts the gothic elements of some of his best work, but lacks execution.
KEY TRACKS Jubilee Street; Mermaids