Just where did it all go wrong for Nick Cave? It's a simple question, but a rather elusive one. At the start of his career with the Boys Next Door and the Birthday Party it was all a mess of jarring, discordant no wave punk howling and unfeasibly large hair. Nowadays he's donned the musical equivalent of his pipe and slippers, and gone for bland, insipid ballads whilst he has a little tinkle on the ivories.

And I say that as someone who has - or had to be more accurate - a lot of respect for the man who shrieked out: "Release the Bats!" or even painted a fearful picture in 'The Mercy Seat' with the Bad Seeds. And even when he started crooning with the likes of 'Into My Arms' at least he managed to seduce and charm you.

But listening to his latest effort, 'Push the Sky Away', is simply horrendous. It's just so dull and lifeless. For gawd sake start taking some drugs again. Start a fire in your belly once more, get some passion and stop writing middle-of-the-road, inoffensive, well down-right crap mush like this.
One (amongst many) little test I have as a rough guide to whether an album is any good or not is, after it has all finished, can I hum or recite any of the songs on the album? Has the album imprinted itself on your brain? Simply, for 'Push the Sky Away', I can't for any of the songs. Give yourself a little test. Try doing it for 'Higgs Boson Blues' or perhaps 'Mermaids' or even the title track at the end? I can't hum the melody or recite a line of any of the nine songs. Not exactly made an impression, has it?

The thing is Nick Cave has become cosy and comfortable and that has become reflected in his music. Long gone are the days when he would be threatened with physical violence whilst trying to score heroin in Berlin. Nowadays he's a happily married family man. Which is all very nice for him - and I'm glad he has found peace and happiness - but it means (in his case) his music is utterly bland, dull and safe and well, just so, so boring.

And the really worrying thing is that he is not alone in going down the dead-end street.

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Commenting On: Where Did It All Go Wrong, Nick Cave? - Hitting the Right Note

ie London, England

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21441 Posted By: Jon Rogers (London)

Hi Aaron,

I fear we might have to agree to differ on this one. But I am glad you got so much more out of the album than I did. I would say I have kept going back to the album in the vain hope that something contained within it would spark some sort of interest for me. But - as yet - still nothing.

I've lost count of the times I've seen Cave live (in one form or another) but haven't seen him touring with his latest album. I would say I have always been (generally) impressed with him live but this time around doesn't really fill me with much excitement at all.

I do find it interesting why some artists become more radical with age - Beethoven, John Coltrane, Tom Waits - while others, like Cave, become more reactionary. I don't claim to have the answers at all, but it is something interesting to ponder.


21437 Posted By: Aaron (Los Angeles)

I hear ya. I come from a similar place both as to my initial love of Nick Cave (via The Birthday party) and my first reaction to Push the Sky Away. Notably, though, my first listen was by way of an online stream. I felt the entire thing was forgettably bland. But I took a chance and bought the vinyl LP. Something about sitting with the sleeve and really being with the record turned me around on it.

Jubilee Street is a great, slow-burner with a killer climax. The title track is weirdly chilling and comforting. Higgs Boson is a little stilly, yes, but it's got some real moments to it amid the sprawl. And Mermaids wouldn't be out of place on The Good Son. Ok, yeah, he seems to have cribbed his own melody there, but that is often the price of prolificacy.

I wouldn't argue that this is his best record but it's hit me better than, say, No more Shall We Part. It's an album that rewards inhabitation. And if you see him performing the album on this tour, I think you'll take comfort that there's life and bile in the old fella yet.

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