Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
How do you listen to a new Nick Cave album? He’s an icon. An obsession. A way of life. There’s so much to be parsed. So many statements to interpret. So many lines to read between. It’s a challenge. An exercise. An exam. How can you possibly enjoy it? It’s not music. It’s work. Well, if you’ve done your homework. If you’ve looked through all the past papers. If you take a big, deep breath. Then, you can get through it. The new Nick Cave album, the 15th with the Bad Seeds, is a tougher test than some. Murder Ballads was bloody, but still sort of fun. Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! was utterly bonkers. A great, raging, madness of the first logorrheic order. Push The Sky Away is a different beast altogether. The songs are slower, more downbeat, and curiously formless for the most part. He usually ends them after 3-4 minutes, but they could easily go on for twice as long. It takes at least three tracks before things start to get into their stride. By that time, we’re in fairly familiar Bad Seeds territory. Strong bass lines. Stories that are tawdry, going on seedy. But this is an album built around its two longest songs. The first, ‘Jubilee Street’, is the more conventional of the two. Lyrically, it tells an unsurprisingly sleazy story. Musically, it starts off in the same vein as many of the other songs, quietly, but builds up to a big finish. The real gem, though, is ‘Higgs Boson Blues’. For nearly eight minutes, it riffs on the essential nihilism of the Large Hadron Collider. Or something like that. The lyrics are pure Nick Cave. “Mama ate the pygmy, The pygmy ate the monkey, The monkey has a gift that he’s sending back to you”. No me neither. And then there’s the best pun ever, and one that US reviewers could easily miss, as Hannah Montana waits in the queue for the zoo loos. As he takes us from Geneva, to Memphis, an animal park somewhere, and Los Angeles, there’s no option but to follow, transfixed, mesmerised. Sometimes an album needs only a couple of great songs for the others to orbit around. This is one such album. It’s not a cakewalk. No multiple choice test. Nick Cave 101 is certainly not an easy option. But it’s worth it. Study hard, breathe deeply, and turn over the page.