With his main project’s first record in five years, Nick Cave has once again proven his willingness to adapt while still keeping sensibilities from his staggeringly large back catalogue. Despite having an album called Murder Ballads, a lot of the songs on the band’s fifteenth studio album, Push the Sky Away sound like the soundtrack to a Jack the Ripper style murder.
Cave and his collaborators have hearkened back to a more introspective and down-played style most exemplified in their 1997 album The Boatman’s Call and 2001’s No More Shall We Part. The departure of guitarist Mick Harvey definitely represents a tonal shift in the band for the band, instead focusing more on Grinderman collaborator, and resident crazy person, Warren Ellis. However, the album isn’t so much melancholia as it is a menacing sort of wonder. While the songs do have complicated themes, emotionally and intellectually, they never seem narrow or closed-off. They leave the listener with an open landscape of sound that can sound inviting and alluring with a definite foreboding and uneasy undertone. “We No Who U R,” the lead-off track and first single, talks about razing a forest without forgiveness, and the apex track “Higgs Boson Blues” muses about the search for meaning, the large Hadron collider, and Hannah Montana. The album’s strongest track, however, comes in “Jubilee Street.” Augmented by Ellis’ beautiful crescendoing string arrangement and Cave’s portrayal of a man walking through a red light district, it captures the sentiment of the album perfectly.
While some may miss the raucous and manic energy from Abattoir Blues and Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, this record only gets better with each listen. Nick Cave has made a fantastic fusion of his different incarnations in Push the Sky Away, as only a pro like him could.