Is there anything left for NICK CAVE to do? He’s been on the music scene since 1973, first with the violently dark post-punkers BIRTHDAY PARTY and later as the front man to NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS. He has written screenplays, novels, films scores, acted alongside Brad Pitt, fathered twins, dated models, collaborated with Shane MacGowan and THE FLAMING LIPS, been inducted to the Australian Recording Artists Hall of Fame, and formed the garage rock band GRINDERMAN in 2008, just to keep things interesting. He is a prolific artist, to put it mildly. Push the Sky Away is NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS fifteenth studio album, greeting fans five years after Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
This album is not something to love at first listen, but in our times of instant gratification, let us acknowledge that great art is not an instant “like.” With poetic lyrics and a brooding sound, the band challenges us to keep listening, and find the beauty in tracks that are haunting and sad, meditations on deep themes and timeless concerns. The clunky label of “alternative rock” oversimplifies them, this band’s music is as dramatic and multi-faceted as an old-time radio play, and requires the same amount of close, attentive listening. Think of the random radio station you tune into, way out in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes you can’t decide if it’s a religious fanatic, some crazy conspiracy theorist, or some lonely recluse sending out his call to the world. Now add strings, keyboard, guitar and lots of dark overtones, and you are getting close to the moody musings of Push the Sky Away.
The opening track, We No Who U R, nods to our modern obsession with knowing what everyone is doing all the time, the shorthand of the title references the media feeds that we inundate ourselves with. Wide, Lovely Eyes is a sweet track, a love song dressed up in Southern gothic, telling you to stand on a beach after the fun fair has been taken apart, while you “wave and say goodbye.” On Water’s Edge and Jubilee Street the vocals are so prominent and the tracks so sparsely instrumented (the drums are barely there) parts sound like spoken word. On Mermaids, a meandering love song gone wrong, NICK CAVE croons how he believes in mermaids and 72 virgins at the bottom of the ocean. Finishing Jubilee Street (which actually really talks about finishing the track by the same name on the album) actually has harmonious backing vocals, over a steady building tempo. Put on this album, pour yourself a bourbon-based cocktail, sit out on your porch and watch darkness fall on a swamp, and wait for ghosts. Push the Sky Away is sure to bring them.