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A Magazine for Sheffield

Push The Sky Away

It's five years on from the Bad Seed's last record Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! and the interceding period has been a prolific one for Nick Cave. Collaborating with fellow Bad Seed and musical foil Warren Ellis, acclaimed soundtracks have been produced for The Road and most recently Lawless. Cave's second novel, The Death of Bunny Munroe, transposed his intense brooding characters to the Brighton Sea front and the priapic, scowling swagger of the Grinderman project has ranged further with a second offering.

But whilst the first Grinderman record provided the Bad Seeds with a lusty infusion, the second seems to have sated their more boisterous urges, with Push The Sky Away possessing a more mournful, delicate sound recalling the balladeering of 'The Boatman's Call' and the gentler moments of the Dirty Three.

'We No Who U R' opens the album with a ballad wrapped in soft pastoral imagery, driven along by an undercurrent of menace. The chattering verse arrangement of 'Wide Lovely Eyes' gives way to chorus chords reminiscent of Johnny Cash. 'Water's Edge' displays Cave's poetic elegance with the culminating lines, "It's the will of love/It's the thrill of love/but the chill of love is coming on", describing the arc of a failing relationship. 'Jubilee Street' continues the melancholia of the album's opening with languid guitars and a rich, grandiloquent string arrangement forming the backdrop for Cave's piquant vocal delivery.

'Mermaids' shifts the mood, showing the lyrical playfulness and brash innuendo of more recent work. The intense thrumming bass line and cinematic melodrama of 'We Real Cool' delivers the atmosphere of recent film scores. It's reference to Wikipedia signposts a rich vein of the inspiration which has seen Cave look ever more broadly across science, religion and the everyday experience of life for his muse. 'Finishing Jubilee Street' exemplifies Cave's often highly narrative approach to songwriting, supported by the sparse and intuitive arrangements of his band. 'Higgs-Boson Blues' inhabits the American Gothic world which Cave has made his own over the last 15 years, as he quips, "Robert Johnson and the Devil man / Dunno who's gonna rip off who?"

Push the Sky Away reflects many of Cave's characters from the last 20 years - the mournful lover, the snotty punk poet and the eerie gothic storyteller. Arguably these portraits have been rendered better elsewhere, but there is plenty here to add to a glittering career. Did I say glittering? Make that one wreathed in seductive, damned shadow.