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Nick Cave | The Bad Seeds | Nocturama | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Nocturama (Anti-/Epitaph)
by Lex Marburger

Somehow, he still matters, sort of. Nick Cave has been doing his thing for more than 20 years, and while some of his savage vitriol has faded, he can still write a good song. Nocturama generally follows the trends set on his last two albums (No More Shall We Part and The Boatman's Call), in that they're gentle, as tender as they can get from a man who devoted an entire album to killing as many people as possible, and rich with nuance (with one exception, noted below). But Nocturama differs from No More Shall We Part in that, while the songs are evidently autobiographical, they aren't as embarrassingly personal and saccharine; and differs from Boatman's Call by adding more layers to the songs, putting meat on the skeletal structures found on that album.

But not by much. Original Bad Seed guitarist/torn throat virtuoso Blixa Bargeld has opted to finally quit the band, leaving Mick Harvey as the Baddest Seed around. Considering he used to be in The Birthday Party with Nick as well, it's a pretty impressive record. But why would Blixa leave? Well, the most obvious thing to point to would be how Nick's sound has evolved, how his ballads no longer ask for the twisted bits of sound that clatter from Blixa's guitar, or his gate-of-hell screeches. Fine, you say, but Einsturzende Neubauten (Blixa's original band) doesn't do that (much) any more either. So what gives? Now, this is just a guess, but it seems Nick has a new boyfriend, violinist Warren Ellis, who can make his instrument shriek like a thing of power, and then in the next moment, play a soft lullaby devoid of irony or malice. Blixa will be sadly missed. His shockingly beautiful feedback and precisely placed noise have always made him stand out in the Bad Seeds. And somebody better step up to the plate to take over those on stage duets. Mick, perhaps?

Nocturama, once again, has themes of love, loneliness, and religion (I still can't tell if he's using it as a poetic device, or if he really found God). Listeners who haven't heard him since the last time he did Lollapalooza (on the album Let Love In) might be rattled to hear songs like "Wonderful Life" ("It's a wonderful life that you bring") and "Still in Love" ("And I say to the sleepy summer rain/with a complete absence of pain... I'm still in love with you"). I guess the guy has really finally gotten over the self-pitying/destructive mindset so pervasive in his previous work. A pity, almost. But, as mentioned, Nocturama doesn't stick solely on ballads and love songs. "Dead Man In My Bed" proves he's still the guy who wrote And The Ass Saw The Angel, with lurching guitar riffs, a raw drum sound, and the often-missed fevered rantings of señor Cave. However, that doesn't even compare to the album's closer "Babe, I'm On Fire," a blistering freak consisting of a driving bassline, hammering drums, and basically the rest of the Seeds making a hell of a racket as Nick puts together stream-of-consciousness rhymed couplets ("The athlete with the hernia says it/Picasso with his Guernica says it/My wife with her furniture") [please note: I know that three lines that rhyme is not a couplet. Shut up.]. Then he launches into a chorus that wraps the whole thing up, the noise comes clattering to a halt, and then, whooom! You're back into the thick of it.

And this goes on for fifteen minutes. Funny thing is, it never gets boring. You keep thinking, "ok, all right, he's done. He's not gonna do it again. Damn! He did it again!" Almost as impressive is the bonus DVD that comes with the special edition album. It has a video for "Babe, I'm On Fire," the whole thing (not one for MTV, I'm guessing), broken down into visual representations (a particular fave: For the line "The sweet little Goth/With the ears of cloth" Nick dresses in Goth drag, holding two of his old albums). Nocturama is as solid an album as the Seeds have put out in the last five years, and for that, it's good to see Nick on his feet again.
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