Friday, December 19, 2008

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

The latest issue of Skyscraper has hit the stands. Here are three of my reviews from the previous issue, starting with my favorite album of the year.

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (CD) – Anti

The old-timey preacher may have warned that our arms are too short to box with God, but damned if Nick Cave ain’t gonna give it a shot anyway. “We call upon the author to explain,” he insists six songs into the emphatically titled Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, Cave’s latest electric assembly with the Seeds. What follows is a rattling good album from the now 51-year-old Cave and his increasingly hoary disciples. In Cave’s topsy-turvy world, Lazarus, freshly raised from the dead, proves rather ungrateful, when confronted with the pace of “the dog-eat-dog world” and set offs for the left coast only to discover it equally inhospitable. From there, the threads are hard to follow, but who cares: Cave calls and we follow. Along the way, we encounter a cavalcade of sweaty meat lockers, receptive vulvae, hand guns, angels, and hotel beds. Against the crunch of guitars and The Seeds “Ooo-Ooo” background vocals, “Albert Goes West” follows three more men on their respective quests across America, and none of them seem to find what they’re looking for either. The song ends, however, with the narrator exclaiming, “I like it here!!!,” extolling the virtues of staying put. It’s a gentle reminder that wherever you go, there you are. And those pleasures you’re looking for may already be in your lap. Elsewhere, when Cave finds his bliss, it’s settled right beside him, too – and often in mundane places. The gorgeous “Jesus of the Moon” takes place within a hotel room. And “Moonlight” and “Midnight Man” place the onus on time to proffer pleasure, not place (nor religion, as the explosive “We Call upon the Author” declaims). Apropos of Cave’s disposition, beauty's often swirling within a cacophony. Tripping piano and snarling guitar propel Cave through “Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl)” with the Seeds cooing and chorusing along with him. “Night of the Lotus Eaters” proceeds at a gentler pace, but not without an industrial clatter. So, too, the spookily beautiful “Moonland” creeps along, itchily, and “Hold on to Yourself” materializes within the subtle, circadic swirl of Warren Ellis’s looping strings. By the time we get to the album closer, “More News from Nowhere,” —and note that the place now is explicitly “nowhere”— Caves practically ambles through eight minutes of dense lyrics. Still, we’re in no hurry for him to leave. – Robert Stribley

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 29 (Winter 2009)

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