“Well, if I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children,” said Nick Cave when announcing the latest Bad Seeds’ release, “then Push The Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator.”
A more stripped back affair then? After the raucous ruckus of ‘Dig, Lazurus Dig!!!’ and the X-rated salaciousness of the two Grinderman records, now Cave is turning his focus to weaving ambience and atmosphere – hell-bent on never repeating himself.
While the classic ‘The Boatman’s Call’ was a solid monument to rich and romantic piano balladry, Push The Sky Away is more a vivid but delicate fog of sounds.
From the off with ‘We Know Who U R’, you can barely recognise the instruments being played, as the Bad Seeds map the mesmerising juxtaposition of the dream- like haze of Warren Ellis’ instrumentation around the crisp punctuation of Cave’s astonishing erudite narrative lyrics.
While their music has always been cinematic and told tall tales, never before have the Bad Seeds so succinctly captured the mood of their warped stories. The sense of peril from the rolling bass loops of ‘Water’s Edge’ is only matched by Cave’s vivid words: “They take apart their bodies like toys for the local boys.”
Cave’s lyrics have reached a nightmarish peak – from the mildly unnerving “I’ve got a foetus on a leash” on ‘Jubillee Street’ to the utterly baleful of “well here comes Lucifer with his cannon law and 100 black babies running from his genocidal jaw” on the sinister but sultry ‘Higgs Boson Blues’.
As the dour hymn of the title tracks fades to a mournful close you realise that while less may not necessarily be more, but it’s certainly enough – especially when all minute elements add up to such beautiful, embryonic simplicity.
Choosing your favourite child is an impossible choice, but Push The Sky Away is the sick little Tiny Tim kid brother of the Bad Seeds’ family that you can’t help but love.