Album Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

Anyone who knows me, or even anyone who doesn’t really know me but reads this blog has to understand how much I absolutely love and adore Nick Cave. Nick Cave the musician, the writer, the actor, the poet, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, The Birthday Party… I feel like I have spent most of my life listening to Nick Cave, reading Nick Cave, seeing Nick Cave in concert and so forth. I literally wait for every new album with baited breath, knowing full well that I will never be disappointed. Granted, there are a few albums that I listen to less than others, but I’ve never disliked anything that he and the Bad Seeds have ever produced.

February 18th, 2013 has been outlined in red on my calendar ever since the release date of the 15th studio album, Push the Sky Away was published. My Christmas gift from my brother last year was a pre-order of the limited edition deluxe version of the album (that I hope will arrive tomorrow). I had already previewed the album when it was streaming on NPR Radio last week, but I spent this morning in bed listening to it and taking notes, not wanting to leave the universe that the Bad Seeds had yet again created for me. Listening to this album brings me right back to the same emotions and feelings I had when I first listened to No More Shall We Part back in 2001 (emotions that I still feel every time I listen to it). Happiness, sadness, laughter, pain, intensity, lightness, heartbreak, love; an emotional turmoil that doesn’t leave you until well after the album is over, one that you want to revisit as many times as possible.

If you watch the short making of video that comes with the album download you learn that for this album the band took a different direction than they were used to taking. Instead of creating the songs in the usual Bad Seeds manner, this time Nick Cave would write the lyrics without any type of chords or music in mind, and would bring them to the band to create songs with. On the first listen you can tell that the make-up and creation process was a lot different, and there is an element of surprise (good surprise), but then it feels normal, like an organic process in the band, a new era in the Bad Seeds life, one that works excellently. This is yet another reason why I love this band so much – they never use what has always worked for them in the past and continue along the same route in order to sell records. Instead they surprise themselves and their audience and never give up on enhancing their creation process and the quality of their art. That said, the album may sound different, but it definitely still has that Bad Seeds sound that I love so much.

Every Bad Seeds album has its own underlying theme and Push The Sky Away is no different. A lot of the stories that each song is composed of are based in Brighton (which also happens to be where Nick Cave resides nowadays). I can conjure up images of the seaside in the winter and summer, grey skies and bright sun, and via the recurring water metaphors that can be found in most songs I feel both at peace but also thrown around and churned up by rising swells.  At first glance the entire album sounds stripped down, especially if compared to the previous release, Dig, Lazurus, Dig!!!, but that is quite deceptive. Each song is a story backed by intricate string loops, bass lines, drum beats and background vocals. I feel that at times Warren Ellis creates an element of fear with his strings, but other times the sounds are comforting and warm, at times creating a dissonance with the lyrics, at other times matching the mood entirely.

“The past is the past and it’s here to stay” – We Real Cool

I have no favourite song as of right now, I am still letting the entire album create its permanent imprint on my brain and heart, but a few stand out after the first few listens. Jubilee Street exists in every town and city and everyone can relate to the lyrics and to the sadness the music evokes. The video is stunning too, dark and blurry and probing. 

“You wave and wave with wide lovely eyes, Distant waves and waves of distant love, You wave and say goodbye” Wide Lovely Eyes

Often I feel like I am sitting in a room with Nick Cave and all of the Bad Seeds, and a few other people, drinking wine, smoking cigarettes and listening to him tell us about the dream he had last night, embellishing it with metaphors and images of water, of human nature, of death and decay and ultimately of beauty. Higgs Boson Blues seems to encapsulate the entire feeling of the album in words. The song creates a web of folklore, word play, gloomy, gory stories punctured through-out with mentions of culture, pop culture, history, religion and anti-religion. I love how this song just builds up and makes you feel uncomfortable but completely at ease at the same time. 

“Rainy days always make me sad”  - Higgs Boson Blues

The final song on the album, Push The Sky Away resonates with hope within despair, an image of survival . This song makes me cry, just because it’s so true: “You've got to just, Keep on pushing, Keep on pushing, Push the sky away”. It’s the perfect ending to the album, lifting you up with the beautifully eerie violin sounds, and leaving you feeling elated and ready to take on another day. 

There are really no other words that can evoke the beauty of this entire album, the only way to really experience it is to listen to it and let it take you wherever you need it to take you. My love for Nick Cave will never dwindle, especially as he continues to make me feel this way through his music, and never fails to do anything else. I know I am not alone in thinking this… An ongoing inspiration in my life.