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Nick Cave leaves no psychological stone unturned on his most recent album "Push the Sky Away," released Tuesday Feb. 19. The 15th studio album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released by the band's own label, Bad Seed Ltd., is a self examination set to heavy tones and a steady pace over nine tracks. If this album were a novel, it would contain footnotes and a map.
"Push the Sky Away," is at times unnervingly personal as it exposes the psychology of Nick Cave. His brooding style was challenging at first because it made this unfiltered portrait seem like a caricature. Sure, the album is overly elaborate and theatrical, but Cave covers broad and colorful territory delivered through his unique sense of storytelling. Cave even refers to Miley Cyrus and the Large Hadron Collider.
Cave and the Bad Seeds open the album with an electronic dirge, "We No Who U R," which sets the methodical rhythm for the following songs. My favorite track is the six-and-a-half-minute rock-opera-novella, "Jubilee Street" on which Cave sings,
"And here I come up the hill
I'm pushing my wheel of love
I got love in my tummy and a tiny little pain
and a 10 ton catastrophe on a 60 pound chain
and I'm pushing my wheel of love up Jubilee Street."
Cave travels up and down Jubilee Street reporting on the status of the neighbors and layers music as the song progresses. Three tracks later, on "Finishing Jubilee Street," Cave analyzes a dream he had after writing, "Jubilee Street." It’s not just about the lyrics as it features a warm and melodic bridge that paints the dreamscape perfectly. Cave is so effective in breaking down the distance between songwriting and recording; it's as if he's writing songs about writing songs. "I'd just finished writing 'Jubilee Street'/ I laid down on my bed and fell into a deep sleep."
"We Real Cool," includes a fun fact: the star Sirus is 8.6 light years away from earth. We can trust Cave since he references Wikipedia a few lines later. Again muddling the line between literal and illusion, the song also includes these lyrics:
"Who measured the distance from the planets
Right down to your big blue spinning world
And heartbeats and tears and nervous laughter
Spilling down all over you, girl."
The instrumentation on this album is just as impressive and complex as the lyrics. The Bad Seeds are hard at work in the background while Cave strains to emote each note his sings. The band includes, Thomas Wydler, Martyn P. Casey, Conway Savage, Jim Sclavunos, Warren Ellis and Ed Kuepper. The multi-instrumentalist Ellis provides the beautiful violin that sings in response to Cave on "Water's Edge." Cave says on his website, “I enter the studio with a handful of ideas, unformed and pupal; it’s the Bad Seeds that transform them into things of wonder. Ask anyone who has seen them at work. They are unlike any other band on earth for pure, instinctive inventiveness.”
Cave has obviously put a lot of work into his songwriting and to help those who are intent on unraveling the mystery, Cave is selling a deluxe box set of the album, which includes 120 reproduced pages of Nick Cave's handwritten notes. Others can take Cave at face value when he sings on the last and title, "And some people say it's just rock 'n' roll/ Ah, but it gets you right down to your soul."
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds will be playing a sold out show Tuesday, March 19 at the Keswick Theater in Philadelphia. Purchase "Push the Sky Away" on iTunes, Amazon and Nick Cave's website. Listen to the album on Spotify.
Are you a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fan, tell me why. @DBCurrent and #TheHighNote
Read the High Note with Shaun Smith every Saturday on www.shorenewstoday.com.