An LP as weighty, compelling and brilliant as The Bad Seeds have ever produced.
James Skinner 2013
A couple of years after 2004’s double-album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, Nick Cave and various Bad Seeds turned to a fledgling project they named Grinderman as a means of escaping the weight and expectation of their established act.
Via some charged, deranged rock’n’roll, it accomplished exactly what its architects intended, enabling them to come on strong with 2008’s acclaimed Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! and clear the palette for Push the Sky Away, their 15th studio album.
The product of a newly reconfigured Bad Seeds (their first album without founding member Mick Harvey, who left in 2009), Cave employs the metaphor of albums as children in its press release, likening it to “the ghost-baby in the incubator” wherein “Warren [Ellis]’s loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat”.
It is certainly a far stranger, subtler record than that last Bad Seeds outing. And in its own way this is every bit as fierce and uncompromising as both Grinderman LPs.
Lead single We No Who U R sets the template: a hymnal slow-burner replete with elemental imagery, it falls somewhere between simmering menace and odd, enchanting beauty. Over the following songs, Cave and his cohorts revel in this dichotomy.
Wide Lovely Eyes and We Real Cool are set against ominously rumbling guitar and bass respectively; strings, piano and backing vocals have to force their way upward in the mix to let in a little light, the ensuing interplay between tension and release exquisitely wrought.
“Wikipedia is heaven / When you don’t want to remember no more,” sighs Cave at one point, referencing the forays around arcane corners of the internet that influenced his songwriting.
These come to the fore in Higgs Boson Blues, a psychotropic eight-minute odyssey that finds him dwelling on everything from nightmarish depictions of Lucifer and disease-carrying missionaries to Miley Cyrus.
The record closes with its title track, a call-to-arms both hushed and bracing in turn. “Some people say it’s just rock and roll / Oh, but it gets you right down to your soul / You’ve gotta keep on pushing,” Cave asserts.
It becomes increasingly evident the song is aimed at himself as much as anyone, on an LP as weighty, compelling and brilliant as The Bad Seeds have ever produced.