Friday, February 22, 2013

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away

Push the Sky Away is an interesting album to me for a number reasons. My main interest is that this is the first record without Mick Harvey being second in command. It seemed since Warren Ellis joined the band the increasing collaborations between the Dirty Three founder and Cave (soundtracks, Grinderman) Harvey seemed to be sidelined. Harvey is a classicist (check his solo albums) so no matter how wild or ethereal the Bad Seeds got, he acted like an anchor. New number 2 Ellis is not constrained by such conceits and as such, Push the Sky Away feels like a departure for the Bad Seeds but not for Ellis and Cave.

Sound wise it seems indebted largely to their soundtrack work - quieter soundscapes based around gentle idioms and looping melodies (for example, Wide Lovely Eyes). However, the best songs here manage to incorporate the Bad Seeds swagger with that repetitive drone - Water's Edge is as angelic and airy as it is menacing with the most ominous bass line since Tupelo. The best song here, Jubilee Street, is the perfect confluence of sounds - built on a simple singular riff with Bad Seeds menace and the repetition of the Dirty Three at its finest, it slowly rises to unexpected levels of ecstasy (check out any of the live youtube videos of it, it is revelatory and I imagine it will be a staple in all future live shows). The wandering Higgs Boson Blues is the other high point, a understated meditation on mortality and Miley Cyrus or something... I'm sure some kid in listening to this record will be as perplexed by this reference as the one's to Wikipedia but I think that's ok. Cave isn't stuck in the Bible or the past - he feels very present on this record.

Interestingly, as the quietest Bad Seeds record since No More Shall We Part, it is not overly concerned with the whimsey of love or God like that record. If anything, it seems more less focused on the internal complexities and has more storytelling - you know, dead prostitutes, rape, murder - the good old fashioned Cave preoccupations. But most of all, it is good - very good and probably my favourite Bad Seeds record since the aforementioned No More (criminally underrated). Cave is no stranger to simple music (I recently bought a Bad Seeds chord book and was astonished to find out how many songs consist of only two chords - From Her to Eternity is only one chord [C5]) but this doesn't feel simple or undercooked. It feels perfect and has quickly become one of my favourite records of the year.


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