Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away

by Steve Reynolds Rating:6.5 Release Date:2013-02-18

Mainly in the guise of The Bad Seeds has Nick Cave delivered his most eloquent and capturing work. With The Birthday Party, the ravaging and fiery post-punk/blues-punk outfit, he made some distinctly startling music up there with The Fall's as some of the late John Peel's favourites. The Birthday Party couldn't hold it together though, resulting in the band self-imploding due to conflict and drug-related exhaustion. When the coals cooled, Cave created The Bad Seeds and brought Mick Harvey with him.

Harvey is significant here as he doesn't play any part in the musical composition for the first time ever, although he has been an integral mainstay throughout the career of The Bad Seeds, creating the crux which completed Cave's macabre, funereal lyrics. Instead, that duty is bestowed on Warren Ellis, thrust into the spotlight and responsible for most of the music and arrangement on Push the Sky Away.

Maybe it's the weight of expectation for this newie, but the first couple of songs are rather sedate. 'We No Who U R' is rather insignificant musically and drifts aimlessly, with Cave sounding more mournful and plaintive that ever, seemingly effected by the stuttering loops and chimes honed by Ellis. The guitar fire heard on such important albums as Tender Prey is missing, replaced by a plethora of strings, most prominent on the album's standout track, 'Jubilee Street', which I am guessing is telling dark stories of the seedy underbelly of the street in the town where Cave resides - Brighton.

Cave has always relinquished the good and brightness of life, focussing his intent on the uncomfortable and macabre. I mean how many people would release an album of ballads about murder? However, he lets his guard down with the immature line on the opening of 'Mermaids': "I was the match that would fire up her snatch". It seems a rather silly and unnecessary lyric, bearing in mind that the arrangement on 'Mermaids' is one of the best on Push the Sky Away.

There is some grit musically, such as the rumbling bass and haunting piano on 'We Real Cool', but it's rather let down by a lack of impetus, with Cave sounding less cultured and urgent than usual. What is disappointing about Push the Sky Away is that it promises so much but struggles to engage the listener the way Cave's early work always seemed to. There is no doubt that the loss of Harvey has made a difference, which I am sure will be a topic of debate among most Bad Seeds fans.

It's not a catastrophe for sure, as most artists would love to put out something as challenging as this. However, when an artist has such a rich and engaging back catalogue, the comparisons will always speak for themselves.

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