Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

It’s a dark and contemplative morning after the night before for the band’s fifteenth.

Label: Bad Seed Ltd

Rating: 7

The thing about growing old disgracefully, the thing they never tell you, is the crippling feeling of overpowering guilt that immediately follows the disgracefulness. The older you get the worse it becomes. More crippling. More guilty. More difficult to best.

For Nick Cave, Grinderman and the last Bad Seeds album (‘Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!’) were the equivalent of turning up to a young relation’s wedding heroically pissed. Dancing rings around the kids, leering inappropriate witticisms at the bridesmaids and then crashing head first through the buffet table. Not expected from someone of this vintage, but hilarious, raucous and brilliant all the same.

‘Push The Sky Away’, their 15th studio album, is different. It’s the morning after the party before. Dark. Moody. Contemplative. Trying very hard not to vomit into the flowers. There is a subtlety and a restraint to it, a sense of cinematic expansiveness that reminds you of the film scores Cave has been involved with.

Also, perhaps not coincidentally, his partner on those soundtracks, Warren Ellis, seems more prominent here than ever before. He’s been a ‘Bad Seed’ for over a decade, but the quizzical fluidity of songs like ‘Water’s Edge’, built upon layers of seemingly disconnected violins, pianos and drums, seems very like something Ellis’ other band, Dirty Three, would put together. Not that it doesn’t work beautifully as a backdrop for Cave to intone over.

What he’s intoning has been reined back too. Of course, Cave still knows his way around an elegant allegory and a crafted simile like few others, be it the gothic framing of the trees on ‘We No Who U R’ that “stand like pleading hands,” or the sad way ‘Wide Lovely Eyes’ notes that they “dismantled the funfair, and shut down the rides” - confirmation that there’s nothing more miserable than a unfurled rollercoaster - but there’s only ever glimpses of the black humour that enlivens his best work.

‘Push The Sky Away’ isn’t lewd, isn’t crude and isn’t particularly rude. And in a way that’s a bit of a shame. An injection of some of the crazed energy, the riotous feeling of fun that made Grinderman so spectacular and which made the Bad Seeds’ 14th one of their very best, would have thrust this album towards excellence.

As it is it falls just short. There are some wonderful moments, the single (‘We No Who U R’) and the title track are starkly magnificent, but the general feel is a bit of a comedown. ‘Push The Sky Away’ is an album which says the party is over. Go home people. Go home and deal with your feelings of overpowering guilt.