Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ‘Push The Sky Away’


Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#839 in the Series) is Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away

The advance word on this one was that Nick and the band had recorded a somewhat subdued set, their most laid-back batch of songs since 1997’s classic The Boatmans Call and I’m very pleased to report that the word was spot on. I personally feel that Nick is at his very best when it comes to (for want of a better word) ballads, the stripped-down , soul baring stuff at which he excels. That being the case, I was never going to be disappointed by Push The Sky Away but it has exceeded even my high expectations, it’s one of the best albums of the great man’s career.

The mood here is reflective, the tempo barely rises above snail’s pace and sometimes (notably “Wide Lovely Eyes”) the music seems to almost drop away completely, fading back to a gentle, glowering, shimmer in the distance. It’s gorgeous  though, very cinematic, just like the music Nick and his main co-writer here, Warren Ellis, have done so successfully on film soundtracks. Thought provoking stuff and it certainly isn’t a record to put on in the background that’s for sure, the dynamics are both emotional and musical and it’s an album that demands close attention and delivers an intense listening experience.

Highlights abound , I’ll start with the aforementioned “Wide Lovely Eyes”, the backing is skeletal, a frame to hang Nick’s weary, resigned vocal upon. Like most of the songs to come it appears to be voyeuristic in approach, leaning back, observing, A lover maybe, someone slipping from his grasp: waves of distant love, you wave and say goodbye.”

From waves to “Waters Edge” wherein we are told about the girls who come to the sea from the Capital and Nick yet again embraces two of his three main lyrical concerns  (love/lust, violence, religion) in one killer line: their legs, wired to the world, like bibles open.”

The ending is also superb, crooning like Leonard Cohen: “it’s the will of love, it’s the thrill of love, ah but the chill of love……… coming on”

Then we head off for a stroll down “Jubilee Street.”  The Bad Seeds are, of course, a band renowned for their prowess and they can do a magnificent job with any style you care to mention, raw rock n roll, primal, scuzzy blues, whatever. Sometimes the greatest power comes in holding a bit back and that’s where we are at the start of “Jubilee Street,” with a  quiet , menacing guitar led intro which builds to a  climax and helps elevate it to one of the best tracks here. It appears to be about a chap who frequents the red light district and seems to have gotten himself in a spot of bother with a young prostitute and done something he may well live to regret: “I was out of place and time and over the hill and all out of my mind – I oughta have practised what I preach”

A little later we have “Finishing Jubilee Street” wherein the writer/protagonist from the earlier song finds himself lost in a fevered dream, devoured by guilt, he can’t seem to get what’s he’s done out of his head: “all of this in her dark hair o Lord.”

No-one but Nick can make a line like that sound so loaded with regret AND lust at the same time. Remarkable stuff.

I had intended to give you a brief lowdown on the best 4/5 songs on the album but I’m finding that to be impossible, the more I listen to it the more I realize that the full thing is the highlight, each track seems to flow into the next, it keeps getting better.

“Mermaids” finds him at his window again, watching the girls of summer sunning themselves on the beach, poetic vulgarity.

Then we come to the longest track on the album “Higgs Boson Blues”, a travelogue of sorts, we’re taken to the Delta to meet up with Robert Johnson with his $10 guitar and Lucifer (but of course !) then on to Memphis and the spot where MLK was killed before meeting up with both Hannah Montana AND Milie Cyrus. Via Geneva. It all ends nearly 8 minutes later with a return to his basement patio. Just another day in Nick’s world/head I suppose.

Final track, and in fact title track, “Push The Sky Away” is a gentle closer, a meditative urging and reminder that you have to stick to your vision and your ideals as an artist and in life, no matter what gets put in your way. That’s what I get from it anyway.

I have one small complaint actually and that’s to do with the length of the album or, more specifically, certain tracks. The likes of “Water’s Edge “and “Mermaids” are simply over far too quickly for me, great tracks that just seem to be getting into their stride and suddenly……..they’re gone ! A minor quibble of course.

Overall this is more than a mere addition to the catalogue, it’s a career high point, maybe not his very best album but certainly near the top. Nick has said in recent interviews that both he and the band are proud of this one and also the fact that they are still making worthwhile music at this stage of their careers. Well, without doubt they are correct to feel this way, this music is vital, unique and well, just damn good!

They have actually been playing the full album on recent live shows, a prospect which usually fills me with dread, but it has been absolutely superb with “Jubilee Street” a stand-out. The ending, with Cave leaning over into the crowd and almost screaming ” I am transforming, I am vibrating, look at me!” is completely epic.

It’s all good news if you’re a Nick Cave fan, a songwriter still at the top of his game, one of the best bunches of musicians on the planet, a transcendant live show and a new album heavy with elegant portent. What’s not to like!?

– Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland

 Track listing

  1. “We No Who U R” 4:04
  2. “Wide Lovely Eyes” 3:40
  3. “Water’s Edge” 3:49
  4. “Jubilee Street”  3:35
  5. “Mermaids”  3:49
  6. “We Real Cool” 4:18
  7. “Finishing Jubilee Street” 4:28
  8. “Higgs Boson Blues” 7:50
  9. “Push the Sky Away” 4:07

Related Links

Here is a trailer for Push the Sky Away
Here is the entire album via a playlist of nine songs. The videos all show the songs lyric sheets. Very cool!

Here is the official video for “We No Who U R.”

Here are more 2013 releases

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Posted by Larry Carta

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