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CD review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ ‘Push the Sky Away’

Push the Sky Away is Cave and The Bad Seeds’ first album in five years.
Photo: Eduardo Verdugo/AP
Annie Zaleski

The Details

Four stars
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Push the Sky Away

By this point, listeners can expect certain things from Nick Cave’s various musical projects: ink-black textures, confrontational sexuality, hypnotic rhythms and Cave’s urbane, bloodless drawl. But the enigmatic Australian still finds ways to surprise on the excellent Push the Sky Away, his 15th album with The Bad Seeds. Lyrical references include Wikipedia (“We Real Cool”) and teen idols (Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus are both name-checked in the sneering “Higgs Boson Blues”). And co-founder/guitarist Mick Harvey’s absence (he left the group in 2009) is hardly felt, thanks to the reappearance of former bassist Barry Adamson.


Push the Sky Away is a Bad Seeds album through and through. Warren Ellis’ etched-out metronomic loops skate like perfect figure eights underneath music featuring such velvet touches as flute (“We No Who U R”), macabre guitar and vampiric strings (“Jubilee Street”) and brushed percussion (“Mermaids”).

In many ways, Push the Sky Away plays like a companion piece to Leonard Cohen’s 2012 album, Old Ideas. A sense of finality and fallibility permeates both, and the ornate instrumentation creates aching suspense and wistful sadness. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Push the Sky Away is its sense of resignation, with the craggy, soulful Cave often sounding like an omniscient narrator who knows too much about the fate of his characters. “Wide Lovely Eyes” seems to sketch out a lady’s suicide by drowning, while “Mermaids” reminisces about out-of-reach romance. Both tunes are at once lovely, haunting and unsettled—the way all great Nick Cave songs should be.


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