Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (ANTI-)

Music Reviews Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave’s art (or what some might call his shtick) has remained fairly consistent over the years, exploring the tension between the blissfully sacred and the horrifically profane. But the nuance of his approach has deepened and matured with each successive disc. At the same time, his band The Bad Seeds has grown ever tighter, making them equally adept at both full-tilt fury and heart-rending ballads. On Cave and the Seeds’ latest effort, though the central themes of their songs remain consistent, they take their music to surprising new heights, creating a double-disc of terrible brilliance and beauty.

As the titles suggest, the pair of discs in the set are intended as separate pieces. Abattoir Blues is the harder-edged of the two, bursting forth with “Get Ready For Love,” a scorching proto-Gospel song that finds God disgusted by the indifference of humanity. Cave considers the darkness of human nature in light of nature’s beauty on the driving “Nature Boy,” as well as his own slippery muse with double-edged ebullience on “There She Goes, My Beautiful World.” While a couple tracks on Abattoir lack Cave’s otherwise deft touch—slipping into campy simile on “Hiding All Away” and “The Fable of the Brown Ape”—the lion’s share of the disc is charged with his genius.

The Lyre of Orpheus is also marked by Cave’s sly wit and punkish romanticism. But where Abattoir attacks, Lyre entreats, reveling in the complexities of beauty and passion, the illusory easy life. On the title track, Cave explodes the myth of Orpheus, rendering him a troubadour of such horrible gifts that his playing lands him in Hell. Against a seductive groove, “Easy Money” illustrates how difficult it is to come by the comforts cash affords. The disc closes with a pair of hymn-like meditations, complete with choral ornaments: “Carry Me” is a waltzing dream of release; and “O Children,” a prayer infused with regret and hope.

Aside from the power of the music and lyrics, the set draws on Cave’s compelling persona: part priest, part sideshow barker—crooning one moment and eviscerating the next. While this has always been the core of his talent, on Abattoir/Lyre it is particularly rich and rewarding.