Saturday, March 08, 2008

CD Review No 11 - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Fourteen albums on Nick Cave's distinctive musical muse appears not to be deserting him. After last years eruption of noise and sonic blues experiment in The Grinderman project, something was bound to spill over into his other output. The triumphant amalgam of his wilder side with his balladry on 'Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, marked a creative resolution. So a further radical revision of his creative process was probably inevitable. It was going be interesting where he'd chose to go too next.

On first hearing, 'Dig!!! Lazarus Dig !!!, seemed well below par, lacking the rush of adrenaline that grabbed your attention, the way that 'Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus did, from its first track. These songs have a more open ended, rambling, improvised style, both lyrically and musically. Tunes are stripped back to bare incantations, verbal rants, or Cave's trademark dry wit, love of literary reference and word play. The often damaged beauty of a Cave love song, appears to have been largely sacrificed to enable a renewed thrust of experiment with form to take place, these songs are structured and executed differently. With aid of the The Bad Seeds, he has over the decades, repeatedly played with, flouted, or transformed musical conventions. The result here is a sometimes uneasy mixture of mature sophistication and unbridled rawness. It certainly defies any expectations one might have had of them. Guitar and violin tape loops swoop and clunk, coarsely plucking out a background rhythm, as on 'The night of the lotus eaters' or there's the all out stomp of 'We call upon the author to explain', or 'Midnight Man'.

Cave, now in his fiftieth decade, appears lyrically to be ever more obsessed with the sexual act, these are cruder songs, less about love, and more about the rampant, uncontrollable lust of a lothario. The title track, has a semi-biblical persona, the eponymous Lazarus, who bares comparison with a character from his earlier mythologising storytelling style. Only on the track 'Jesus of the Moon' does Cave tease you with his renowned fondness for darker, morally ambiguous situations, and subject matter. What initially appears to be the recounting of a man leaving a hotel, and a woman, behind after a night of love, unsettles you once it becomes clear that he's left her murdered. As an album, it has a feeling that its a record of a transition that's not quite fully got there yet. It does, however, hold your interest, with enough innovation and breaking of his own conventions, to maintain and justify his reputation.

No comments: