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Nick Cave | Abattoir Blues/ The Lyre of Orpheus | review | alternative | Lollipop

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (Anti)
by Brian Varney

Perhaps it's because I tend to overthink stupid things, but the first question that pops into mind here is whether to treat Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus as two separate albums or as two halves of a whole. The fact that the two are not available separately and also the fact that they are pretty similar-sounding makes me think of them as one. However, there are a lot of things done to separate the two: They are given separate titles and individually packaged, even though the combined running time is just over 80 minutes, so they probably could've fit the two onto a single disc if it didn't matter.

And what of the music? I came to these albums with some caution, frankly. I've never been a huge Nick Cave fan, but I have dabbled in his albums when they've crossed my path in past years. After the embarrassingly bad Leonard Cohen hero-worship of 2001's No More Shall We Part, though, I figured I was done with him. However, last year's Nocturama was a surprisingly pleasant comeback, and in a way, I'm glad I heard it, because otherwise, I probably wouldn't have even bothered with Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, and that would've been a tremendous shame.

On both albums, Cave's obvious love of unique artists like Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and Johnny Cash is sublimated into an intoxicatingly passionate collection of songs that bears no obvious sonic connections to their forefathers. The mimicry of No More Shall We Part is thankfully nowhere in evidence; the only connections are emotional, such as "O Children," The Lyre of Orpheus's crushing closer, whose dolorous beauty makes it not a faint echo of its sources, but worthy of sitting alongside them.

The songs are uniformly strong, the arrangements pretty but spare, and the production has a raw, live feeling, like a '60s single-mic jazz studio recording. There are obvious mistakes left in (see "Hiding All Away," where Cave's lyrics crack up the backing vocalists) and rough spots left untouched, the end result a captivating combination of lush beauty and raw, unfettered honesty.

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