Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Push The Sky Away – review

Push The Sky Away

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Push The Sky Away
Bad Seeds Ltd.

If there is one place that Nick Cave hasn’t allowed himself to go during his career in music, it’s into a corner. He’s been as snot-nosed as Iggy Pop, as earnest as Tom Waits, as lyrically profound as Bob Dylan, as tacky as Jarvis Cocker, and as enigmatic as Lou Reed. Whichever way he turns, he is up there with the best of them.

Over his decades-long musical career, which has spanned from the goth-jazz-punk outfit The Birthday Party to the sleaze-romp of Grinderman, Cave hasn’t shied away from the provocative, whether it’s challenging the conventions of song making or just simply singing about not being able to get any pussy after growing a moustache.

On Push The Sky Away, his 15th record with The Bad Seeds, Cave turns away from the provocative and embraces the evocative, with the album marking a shift towards majestic elegance in lieu of brash-faced pontification.

Leading single, ‘We No Who U R’, opens the proceedings in a manner which most artists would deem fit for an album’s ending. A piano that sounds something like a dripping tap on a space station loops beneath the cold refrain of “we know who you are, and we know where you, and we know there’s no need to forgive,” gives an early indication that this isn’t going to be a typically ruffling Nick Cave experience.

Instead, we are treated to something far more insidious on Push The Sky Away, and it is all the more alluring for it. The kitchen sink narrative of prostitution on ‘Jubilee Street’ has an arrangement of guitars and strings which slowly build to a crescendo, which is either crushing or emphatic depending on how you read Cave’s conflicted ending to his tale of a customer’s journey through vice and disgrace.

As always, Cave’s fixation with the divine is prevalent. On ‘Mermaids’ he sings: ‘I believe in God, I believe in Mermaids too, I believe in 72 virgins on a chain, Why not? Why not?’, affirming his long standing ambivalent obsession with religion. On ‘Higgs Boson Blues’, a hellish picture of the relationship between modern science and religion is painted upon a surreal ballad of a pilgrimage through fire with Miley Cyrus.

Cave reports that the album was conceived and written from the absurd allure of “Googling curiosities” and “being entranced by exotic Wikipedia entries, whether they’re true or not.” Push The Sky Away is as much a product of the technological age as it is a quietly ominous and disquieting examination of how we may have lost touch with what is important in a time where fleeting fads and trends can completely engage our attention.

This may not be the most outlandish or immediately uncomfortable of Nick Cave’s albums. It’s a pernicious slow burner in both its lyrical and musical attributes but its effect is to kindle a lasting smoulder upon the listener rather than ignite a blazing impression. In the end it will leave you just as ill at ease as any other Cave masterpiece. You just have to log out of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Youtube, etc. and give it your full attention.

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