Before the release of Grinderman, I remember getting all excited reading that Nick Cave was coming out with hard rocking album. Unfortunately, the CD didn't live up to my expectations, it struck me as more of a throwaway than a committed project. But at least I didn't have long to wait for the real goods. Dig Lazarus Dig is everything I had been hoping for in a rocking Nick Cave release, full-fledged songs, fun yet biting lyrics, a diversity of musical styles, moments of pensiveness and beauty, and oh yeah, it really really jams. Welcome back, Nick!
I don't understand why some reviewers are knocking this album. This, to me, is not the sound of Nick Cave in a rut, this is the sound of Nick and the Bad Seeds revitalized. We all love Nick Cave the twisted balladeer, the lounge singer with the dark tortured soul of an Ingmar Bergman, the pensive Nick Cave of The Good Son, Murder Ballads, The Boatman's Call, No More Shall We Part and The Lyre of Orpheus/Abbatoir Blues, but staying in that same mode ad infinitum would have constituted the true rut. It was time for a change, and Lazarus indicates a deviation in focus I ardently applaud, even if it turns out to be for one album only. Nick's characteristic snarl is still here, but he seems to be having more fun this time around. Does that make some of the lyrics less deep than what we're accustomed to? Maybe, but that doesn't mean they're not every bit as intelligent and literate and black as before. Nick has opted for a more absurdist lyrical style on several of the songs, going off on bizarre tangents while spinning his characteristically sardonic narratives, and frankly I'm not always sure what the hell he's singing about, but the results are damned entertaining nonetheless. As for the musical element, I like the sound of Nick Cave cutting loose. This might be the closest thing to a party album that Nick and the Bad Seeds ever release, and it is appropriately raunchy, but that doesn't make it negligible. The title song which opens the album, and We Call Upon the Author, positioned directly at the middle, and the closing More News From Nowhere are the key tracks here, setting the mood of theater of the absurd spontaneity, but they aren't necessarily the strongest. This is a hook-laden album, with Nick's pop sensibilities in full swing. In addition to those three songs, I really love Today's Lesson, Hold On To Yourself, Lie Down Here(& Be My Girl) and Midnight Man. Besides its melodic invention and lyrical, flamboyance, Lazarus has the added advantage of being far from a one note adventure; musical ideas abound. Night of the Lotus Eaters employs what sounds like a steel drum, Hold On To Yourself and Jesus Of the Moon are beautiful ballads in the tradition of his more recent albums, but with some musical twists(Hold On has a distinctly western twang), and Lie Down Here is a barroom sizzler, the kind of all out assault Nick and the boys haven't done for a while(not counting Grinderman), with an irresistible melody and a propulsive performance by the band. Lazarus might be Nick's most American album, with its nods to American music and its darkly comic examinations of American celebrity and culture.
Some may argue with Nick's change in direction, I find it exhilarating. To the naysayers, criticize this album if you must, but please don't accuse Nick Cave of getting stale. For me this album is a refreshing change of pace, with the emphasis on fresh.