Ballads by the Seaside

Push the Sky Away – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Australian Nick Cave has dragged the Bad Seeds by the teeth through fifteen albums and 30 years of musical evolution to consistent acclaim. Their newest album, Push the Sky Away, is a sharp detour from the garage rock of Grinderman.

Simple arrangements, like the lone gloomy guitar of “Mermaid,” triumphant strings of “Jubilee Street” and rumbling bass of “We Real Cool” evolve into aggressive string and keyboard climaxes. Anger swells into oblivion, evoking a sense of terror that undercuts hungry biblical allusions scattered throughout.

A modernist storyteller, Cave offers redemption with all the madness of a violent drunk. The sinister bass of “Water’s Edge” is as unsettling as his hostile lyrics, as it offers a tribute to a murdered prostitute. The elegy stretches over the loops of a plaintive violin, for promiscuous city girls that “dismantle themselves by the water’s edge” with “legs wide to the world like bibles open.”

His menacing baritone in “Higgs Boson Blues” is ruthless. It smirks, grabs collars and thrusts its tongue down throats, growling “here comes Lucifer with his canon law and a hundred black babies runnin’ from his genocidal jaw.” Muscular percussion forms a sleazy accompaniment to the sprawling stream of consciousness, as Cave makes fractured references to disease-ridden missionaries infecting the savages – in the same thread as Miley Cyrus floating in a swimming pool.

Bizzare and surrealist, the visceral poetry complements the cinematic ballads to paint a modern tapestry of extraterrestrials. The young lovers of “Water’s Edge” break each other in haste while the aimless adrift in “Mermaid” slip between fingers and dissolve into sea.

Admittedly, Nick Cave’s larynx may never be immortalized in the same manner as Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash. However, with him at the helm, the powerful narrative and grim composition of Push the Sky Away make it the life buoy keeping Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds afloat.

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