[Single Review]: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

jubilee street-592‘She had a history, but she had no past’

So, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds release their new album, Push The Sky Away, tomorrow and I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve followed Nick Cave’s output for the best part of ten years now and he’s one of those rare artists that is relentlessly energetic and not afraid to turn their hand to anything. From film soundtracks to novels and all points in between, everything he touches turns golden. If there’s one artist you can always place good money on, it’s Nick Cave.

I suppose the reason I’m so interested in this album is that it will be the first Bad Seeds record to be released since the departure of Cave’s first mate, Mick Harvey. This move didn’t seem so strange as since No More Shall We Part, one of my favourite Nick Cave albums, Cave has been gravitating closer towards Warren Ellis as a songwriting partner, most evident in their stunning film soundtracks. This also means that the difference between the crews of the Bad Seeds and Cave’s busman’s holiday, Grinderman, is even smaller than before. Obviously, this means that there is an increased risk that the output of both bands will start to mimic the other. So I suppose I’m anxious as well as excited.

Listening to the two preview tracks from Push The Sky Away, ‘Jubilee Street’ and ‘We No Who U R’, it seems that these fears may be hopefully allayed. These songs definitely do not belong to the lecherously raucous domain of Grinderman. If anything, it seems that the departure of Mick Harvey’s groove-driven guitarwork has allowed for more space for the Bad Seeds to stretch out in. That is not to discredit Harvey, far from it. I consider him to be one of the most tactful and talented musicians of the last 25 years and his work with PJ Harvey is as great as his Bad Seeds work. But, these tracks are definitely of a more meditative and contemplative atmosphere that bears more resemblance to Cave’s soundtrack work than with any Bad Seeds or Grinderman precursor. They’re restrained and muscular, as if Cave and co. are pulling their punches, not quite revealing all. The bass, percussion and organ elements are definitely more fleshed out and it allows for what I can only really describe as ‘space to breathe’.

‘Jubilee Street’, named after what Cave mistakenly thought to be the red-light district in Brighton, is arguably the strongest ballad Cave has written since 2004’s Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus and, in typical Cave style, is about the relationship between a prostitute and her john. It’s a track that is beautiful in its restrained simplicity: The groove is solemn, the beats are minimal and the strings are lean and refined. The mood lingers somewhere between reverence and menace (Cave’s prime stomping grounds) and allows the perfect platform for Cave’s half parable/half pulp novel. It is a testament to Cave’s subtle yet commanding vocals that he can make a line like ‘I’ve got a foetus on a leash’ sound completely acceptable (given the circumstances) rather than shocking and distasteful. Juxtaposed with these raw moments are some of Cave’s finest cut sentiments, like ‘Here I come up the hill, / I’m pushing my wheel of love’ and ‘ten-ton catastrophe on a sixty-pound chain’. The song’s finale is magnificent, lifting Cave’s sermon to transcendental heights. That may sound wishy-washy, but honestly, it is that good. Ray Winstone also puts in a surprisingly restrained performance in the video.

If tracks such as this are any indication, then Push the Sky Away is looking to be a rewardingly enigmatic affair where the Bad Seeds have lost none of their energy and gravitas for their restraint. If anything it has honed and refined their craft to scalpel sharp keenness. The music seems more spiritual and gestures to what may lie beyond the song, rather than defining its limits. Maybe that’s what the forthcoming album’s title, Push The Sky Away, is really suggesting: an indication of the infinite.

Push The Sky Away will be available 18th February through Mute Records.

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[Cheap & Cheerful]: ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror Mixtape

‘We used to sleep on the beach, sleep over night. They don’t do it any more.’

Well, the festival season is well and truly upon us and pretty much everyone has planned their summer around their chosen weekend of debauchery. If, like me, you were greeted the other day by your tickets to Alexandra Palace for 23rd-24th July then you are no doubt getting excited for the first UK All Tomorrows Parties sister fest I’ll Be Your Mirror curated by Portishead. I’ve been itching to see Portishead for a couple of years now, though they are famously reluctant to tour. So being able to not only go see them, but also go to a festival the band have organised and chosen the line up for is, pardon the phrase: ‘A Dream Come True’.

So for those who need a little something to get them in the IBYM frame of mind, or simply could do with a little Portishead, Godspeed, Grinderman, PJ Harvey and Doom (previously MF Doom) in their life, ATP have released a free mixtape from the official website. It’s an awesome and heady mix stitched together in a single two hour MP3 for old school mixtape style. However, for those who want to go to the effort of editing it down into its constituent tracks, or simply want to see what lies in store, I’ll post the track listing at the bottom. Get it while it’s free people!

See you in Alexandra Palace!

  • 00.00 “…They Don’t Sleep Anymore on the Beach…” / Monheim – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  • 13.19 We Carry On – Portishead
  • 19.44 A Cold Freezin’ Night – The Books
  • 23.04 Gazzillion Ear – Doom
  • 27.15 You Fucking People Make Me Sick – Swans
  • 32.20 Yang Yang – Anika
  • 35.11 Real Love – Factory Floor
  • 42.32 Infinity Skull Cube – DD/MM/YYYY
  • 45.51 Untilted – Helen Money
  • 51.42 “Four Spirits In A Room” Excerpt – Alan Moore & Stephen O’Malley
  • 56.50 Plaster Casts Of Everything – Liars
  • 60.43 8 Steps To Perfection – Company Flow
  • 65.23 Written On The Forehead – PJ Harvey
  • 68.49 Arabic Emotions – The London Snorkelling Team
  • 71.27 Wulfstan – BEAK>
  • 77.28 When My Baby Comes – Grinderman
  • 84.09 Paris Signals – S.C.U.M.
  • 88.30 Lovers With Iraqis – Foot Village
  • 92.18 Gratitude – Acoustic Ladyland
  • 96.29 Violence – The Telescopes
  • 100.01 Hannibal – Caribou
  • 106.15 Walk In The Park – Beach House