“Well, if I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children, then Push The Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator and Warren’s loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat”, says Nick Cave. The frustration, aggression and electricity of side-project Grinderman and Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! have been exchanged for contemplation and delicacy. Nick Cave is not succumbing to modern times; the track-title ‘We No Who U R’ shows not a submission to the technological revolution but a reflection on it. The cover helps underline this intrusion of technology into privacy.
Nick Cave’s exciting interpretation of myth has always been prominent, and on Push The Sky Away he leaps forward thousands of years. Instead of transporting Lazarus or Odysseus into contemporary society, he focuses on the modern ‘myth’. Wikipedia and Hannah Montana are both mentioned. What is truthful and what should be believed, what deserves attention and what has been inflated far beyond necessity by the internet is contemplated. The above are “All among the myths and the legends we create”. This contemplation doesn’t entirely drive out the raw lyrics of black humour and fierce emotion. The comedown from Grinderman is evident on ‘Water’s Edge’, the most menacing track, with Nick Cave spitting clever, entertaining, but disconcerting lines such as “Their legs wide to the world like bibles open”.
The savagery of much of their recent output has largely vanished. The industrial clunk from Grinderman is somewhat replicated on ‘We Real Cool’, yet reveals itself as more fragile than forceful. ‘Jubilee Street’ and ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ both expand, but into an awe-inspiring sonic landscape rather than unrestrained rage. Whereas many of NC&TBS’s delicate, personal moments have previously revolved around simply Cave and a piano, on Push The Sky Away the Bad Seeds are constantly involved, developing his lyrical themes and emotional intentions. There is no song featuring just Cave, and this tight unity enhances the intimacy. The use of electrical keyboard, subtle and fitting, lends warmth to many of the songs, mirroring Cave’s musings.
Push The Sky Away at points possesses certain textural similarities to Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas, and the correspondence is enhanced by the time-earned sagacity of both. Yet, thankfully, the lingering temptation to plummet back into rock and roll/garage rock still lurks. They have taken a voluntary moment of repose, but have by no means yielded to older age.
Push the Sky Away by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is out now on Bad Seeds Ltd. records