Following the release of 2008’s shimmering Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, Ol’ Nick took time out to blast away some more bluesy cobwebs with garage band Grinderman, who released a raucous, sexy second album.
During the hiatus, Cave also published his second novel, The Death of Bunny Munroe, wrote the screenplay to John Hillcoat’s movie Lawless and scored the soundtracks to multiple films with Bad Seeds violinist Warren Ellis.
To say the least, the Black Crow King was productive on his break, and it is evident on Push The Sky Away that he is continuing to enjoy a period of heightened creativity.
Returning to more subtle melodies and biblical lyricism, this is a tender and genuinely beautiful record that is full to the brim with contemporary cultural references.
Cave’s incessant Googling inspired the bulk of his new batch of lyrics, which explores all things 21st century, from the mysticism of the internet to the exoticism of untrue Wikipedia entries.
Ol’ Nick’s embracement of the zeitgeist has led to some peculiar wording – “Hannah Montana does the African Savannah/ As the simulated rainy season begins,” he croaks on ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ – note the title. What’s more, he (kind of) adapts text language for the single, ‘We No Who U R’. Not bad going for a 55-year-old father of four.
Musically, Push The Sky Away is controlled and imaginative, returning to some of the themes explored on Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus. This is the first Bad Seeds album that does not feature founding-member and guitarist Mick Harvey (he left in 2009) and it is clear that Warren Ellis has taken over as chief composer.
Ellis’s swirling strings and hurly-burly noises from unidentifiable instruments are the strongest musical components on this album – just listen to those rousing violins on ‘Jubilee Street’.
Cave himself said recently: “If I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children, then Push The Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator and Warren’s [instrumental] loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat.”
Push The Sky Away is proof that Nick Cave still holds the musical and literary worlds at the tips of his lanky fingers. Coupled with the Bad Seeds, he is in no way ready for retirement after 30 years of music.
Let’s hope the Australian songster pays a visit to Ireland sometime soon – in the meantime, you have got to hear this album.
Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is out now.