After two albums of letting it all hang out with Grinderman, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have produced an album of subtle beauty, a soothing antidote to the garage noise of a mid-life crisis put to music. Returning to the cathartic feel of his masterpiece The Boatman’s Call Cave is here to wrap an arm around your shoulder, but, given the dark twist always lurking in his lyrics, he’s not necessarily going to tell you its all going to be okay. Cave has described his 15th album with the Bad Seeds as a “ghost baby in the incubator”, a vulnerable child fighting for life, and while there is something delicate about this record on the surface, there is a power too in its brooding intensity.
He may lull you into a false sense of relaxation through the healing sounds of ‘We No Who U R’ and ‘Wide Lovely Eyes’ but that is only to tee up the rumbling intensity of ‘Water’s Edge’, which rumbles like a caged animal awaiting its chance to break free, Cave’s darkly sexual lyrics leaving you on edge.
The immense ‘Jubilee Street’ is the centre-piece of the record, building gently from its soft opening to an intense, layered sound of lush strings and raging guitars. Over this Cave tells a grim tale of prostitution, a stark image of “a foetus on a leash” which ought to jar the listener and would do were it not for the powerful beauty of the sound. It is a rare break-out moment on an otherwise very introspective album. ‘Jubilee Street”s place as the focal point of Push The Sky Away is revisited later on ‘Finishing Jubilee Street’, a sort of diary piece on Cave’s own emotional response to finishing work on a song that should stand up there with his best.
From there, the album rolls into ‘Higgs Boson Blues’, a raw, sprawling existential response to the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. It serves as the most direct moment on this record, stripping away at the shroud of vagueness that sweeps over everything else. Robert Johnson, Hannah Montana and Miley Cirus are all part of Cave’s conversation with his own maker on the very nature of existence.
But somehow through this intensity the feel of the album remains one of healing, and as the closing title track – with its minimalist instrumentation and soft rhythms – fades away, it leaves you with a warm, content feeling. There are demons lurking in every Nick Cave album, but those within Push The Sky Away have been faced down and contained.