Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, ‘Push the Sky Away’ – Album Review
Now that Nick Cave has exorcised the noisy guitar-rock demons with a pair of albums by his Grinderman side project, he’s safe to return to the moody noir-toned records he’s crafted with the Bad Seeds for nearly 30 years. Their 15th album, ‘Push the Sky Away,’ doesn’t break the mold used to make classics like ‘The Boatman’s Call’ and ‘Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus.’ Instead, it follows a formula that’s become, like Cave’s voice, deeper and richer over the years.
The music on ‘Push the Sky Away’ resides in a place somewhere between a 1940s detective movie quickie and a 1960s beatnik underground where everybody gets a chance to recite their poetry to a politely approving audience. The words are bleaker. Cave tosses off lines like “They’ve dismantled the fun fair and they’ve shut down the rides / And they’ve hung the mermaids from the street lights by their hair” with an acceptance that borders on indifference.
Going back to the mid ‘90s, when he first started exploring murder ballads from the perspective of a ravaged and damaged heart, Cave’s albums have fallen deeper and deeper into a darkening hole of despair. The two Grinderman albums lightened the load, as Cave sang tracks like ‘No Pussy Blues’ with less frustration and more full-on lust while distortion-crackling guitars cut through the BS. The last Bad Seeds album, 2008’s ‘Dig, Lazarus. Dig!!!’ kicked around the same territory. ‘Push the Sky Away’ casts away those relatively raging records with gray-skied hopelessness.
The opening ‘We No Who U R’ sounds like a warning. So when the first rumbling bass notes of ‘Water’s Edge’ make their entrance, it’s definitely doom approaching on the horizon. The mournful violin squeals sense something bad is coming too. Then Cave shows up in this post-Armageddon wasteland as the Narrator With No Hope. “They take apart their bodies like toys for the local boys,” he sings, and boy, you better take shelter.
If ‘Push the Sky Away’ doesn’t take any giant leaps forward from Cave’s past work, it does settle into its gloomy melodicism more comfortably. Cave can write and sing — and the Bad Seeds can play — this type of material in their sleep. But their eyes and senses are wide open, ready and waiting for the impending apocalypse.