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NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS play Massey Hall on March 23. See listings. Rating: NNNN
With Nick Cave, change is the only constant. His 15th studio album with the Bad Seeds is the first without close associate Mick Harvey. Here, bouzouki-playing Dirty Three vet and long-time backbench Bad Seed Warren Ellis takes the seat at Cave's right hand.
Push The Sky Away most resembles Ellis and Cave's soundtrack collaborations. The more delicate, string-heavy arrangements come off as subtle counterpoint to the ringing riffs of Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! or the stomping operatics of Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus. Jubilee Street, an ode to a lonesome sex worker and the john who knocks her up, attentively builds to its transcendent crescendo, while the seven-plus minutes of Higgs Boson Blues see Cave narrating an apocalyptic road trip to CERN HQ.
From a guy moulded in the heroin-spiked hullabaloo of pioneering noise punks the Birthday Party, this feels like Cave's adult contempo record. But given the 55-year-old songwriter's recent efforts to reckon with mid-life malaise (the Grinderman LPs, his last novel), Sky's post-post-punk mellowing proves a welcome development, revealing maturity instead of postured snarling.
Top track: Jubilee Street