Album Review: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away

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In response to achieving their first No.1 album in Australia, Nick Cave of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds said simply that he knew they were producing good music, this is just the first time Australian’s have responded to it.This review exists only to elaborate on Mr Cave’s totally correct statement, lest its succinct-ness be misinterpreted as arrogance on the singer’s behalf. Push The Sky Away is typical Bad Seeds, not differentiating itself from the Nick Cave formula so much that it should have achieved this unprecedented success.That’s not to say it’s a rehash of the same old material. The tone has definitely changed, feeling more dry and worn out than previous albums. It’s bare-er where the Bad Seeds have always been bare, noticeably empty sounding compared to such a sound being put on before.The Seeds are an incredibly well rehearsed and in sync band, as comes with 15 albums worth of experience, but young musicians would do well to sit down and study every minute of the whole. It’s not just about making music that sounds good, it’s about totally controlling those sounds, and being very aware of how you’re manipulating the listener. The band is restrained throughout the majority of most tracks, and has thankfully dropped the flirtatious dribs and drabs of chords that happened to slip out on top of the actual music, as was the case on previous albums.Instead, there is almost nothing underlying Cave’s vocals. That is, until the band decides to lash out with long, solid banks of sound that ebb and pulse with power. Violins and Cellos crash their way through the silence, only to retreat, then return with a vengeance. Great timing results in a deeply emotional work, for performers and their audience.Cave’s solo contribution has probably been the element of the Bad Seeds’ work that has swung the vote for fans and casual listeners alike. On “Push The Sky Away”, he verges closer to spoken word than doing any actual singing, and for most of that time, it’s more like disgruntled ramblings and half mumbled complaints of an old man than spoken word. It’s disappointing, frankly, although whether it doesn’t suit the album is hard to decide, as it adds another disconcerting factor to the vibe. The lyrics, however, are deeply layered, melancholy, and intriguing, and their meaning counteracts the way they are delivered.Overall, Push The Sky Away really saps your energy to listen to. There is also a powerful menace writhing throughout the album, not brooding but sinuously wearing you down. While it’s not anything unique in the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds discography, it is certainly an epitome of their style and their ability.I don’t know why, then, it’s done any better. Maybe you’ve just timed it right, Mr Cave. Maybe people are in the mood for this kind of thing right now.by Jarryd Bendall

February 27th 2013
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