Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Push the Sky Away - BAD SEED LTD
FILTER Grade: 89%
By Ken Scrudato; photo by Cat Stevens on March 14, 2013
If prodded, the Nick Cave of the here and now would surely, willingly cop to a nascent and deliciously vicious attraction to the brutally vengeful God of the Old Testament (ah, youth). It may speak, then, to a universal truth—with grudging apologies to you ponderous postmodernists—that human beings, as we totter into the latter chronology of our mortal shuffle, are simply less inclined to seek moral grounding within such violent and unforgiving contexts.
This is evidently true even for the still-ominous Cave, who holds the majestic but mercurial job of fronting The Bad Seeds. Yet a few minutes into his graciously intimate, but unapologetically Bible-wielding new album Push the Sky Away, you wish that he would just leap from behind his piano, flip open his King James to Genesis 4:15 and recruit some thrashing young guitar apostle to follow him back into the fiery fray of raging rhetorical retribution.
Yet, as one of our greatest living storytellers, he almost unfailingly holds his own with Matthew, Mark, Luke…and yeah, probably even John. After all, even sweet little Kylie was willing to be brutally, ahem…“murdered” just to be written into the canon. He has by now journeyed far beyond critical reproach. (You might not like his music—but the Day of Final Judgment will deal with you accordingly.) And when he descends every now and then to purge his tattered soul, we are surely never disappointed at the glorious privilege to be called to serve once again as Cave’s collective confessional. True, there are those Judases who strayed from the fold after all the quiet introspection of The Boatman’s Call, but for the remaining faithful, who have found light in his New Testament, there isn’t, alas, a note or a couplet on Push the Sky Away that would leave you wondering as to the identity of its creator and its point on his chronology. And though this may just be that nigh-perfect gospel rock record he has always meant to make, it is sonically much more the washing-of-the-feet-of-a-beggar than the raining-down-of-fire-upon-Sodom-and-Gomorrah. But then, it is said that the path to salvation is as good by charity as by righteous vengeance.
The confessions here are many and stark and, as we have come to expect of him, unabashedly displaying the wounds that inspired them. As he mourns the girl of “Wide Lovely Eyes” passing “through the garden with your secret key/Down the tunnel that leads to the sea,” only the shamefully heartless would not share in his sorrow.
Cave does skirt the perimeter of his old devil-blues-and-prostitutes self on “Waters Edge,” howling the tragedy of those with “their legs wide to the world like Bibles open.” (He was never one, after all, to slink from a bit of lyrical blasphemy.) But “Jubilee Street” is far more restrained and mournful than its Sisyphus symbolism and nasty imagery (“I got a foetus on a leash,” he sneers unsettlingly) would suggest—but it builds to an epic, widescreen finish that will leave you exhilarated and chilled to your bones in equal measure.
And, naturally, only Nick Cave would be found intoning so strangely about particle physics, as on “Higgs Boson Blues,” then suddenly throwing us a warning like, “Here comes Lucifer with his Canon Law.” You can almost feel the Devil’s heat upon your neck as he utters the words.
Not all sins are forgiven here. For it must be stated with certitude that such lines as “I was the match that would fire up her snatch” should simply not ever be, well, writ. Or, more to the point, they should be left to Grinderman records. Ah, Grinderman. The putative demise of Cave’s magnificently wicked dalliance might just have drawn a definitive line to Push the Sky Away. It suggests that this Cave, the Cave of elegant, heartrending, but yet often harrowing, portentous meditations on our morally shattered existence, is really the Cave that Cave wants to be. (Now and For Ever, Amen.)
Should all this Biblical disquietude have left you yet bemused, however, on the hauntingly beautiful closing and title track, he preaches the gospel in the plainest of terms: “Some people say it’s just rock and roll/Oh, but it gets you right down to your soul.”
Indeed, for those of us with just such weighted selves, but left hollow by so many Earthly religious dogmas, Saint Nick has again given us vigorous spiritual sanctuary. We should thusly appreciate every note, every word, as if we were the hungry flock and it were the thousand loaves. Nick is our shepherd…and we shall not want for anything.
While it’s likely that Push the Sky Away will not cause the seas to part before him, it will surely ephemerally deliver us from this evil wasteland of vacant contemporary culture and mutilated morality.
Benedictus dominus Nicholas Edward Cave.
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