on February 23, 2004
So Nick and the boys have grown up a little bit since the first days of the Birthday Party. How can you fault them for that? You can't just scream and bang away in the studio forever and find that experience satisfying, can you? So Nocturama is another quantum leap in maturity and sophistication for the Seeds. It is softer and wittier and sharper than anything they have done before. This doesn't mean they have sold out. It doesn't mean they don't love their black fingernail painted, spiked hairdo wearing, black trenchcoat sporting fans. It just means that they are true artists who evolve and grow in their craft. Heck, who wanted John and Paul to sing "She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" forever instead of moving on to Sgt. Peppers or Yellow Submarine. I mean, really, how many songs about finding the girl of your dreams and then clubbing her to death can you do?
Nocturama is pretty close to perfect without a bad track on the CD. Some are much better than others (with, oddly enough, the softer ballads like "Out of Your Hand" being the best) but ALL of the songs here are better than pretty much every other song you heard this week on the radio. There are still some hard tracks here but also a bit of blues and croon to mellow the harsh. Nick sounds great and the Bad Seeds play a big part musically in this effort. The lyrics are tight and sharp with the 17 minute epic "I'm On Fire" using the most complex verbage of any song in recent memory. As the last song on a pretty mild CD "Fire" is a rough and tumble ride that turns a corner somewhere from "too long" (as some here have complained) to "oh, yeah, keep it coming" (somewhere around minute 15 1/2). It seemed to me like this song is a great excuse for Nick and the Boys to remind all of us out here in listening land that it's still THEIR party and they'll play as loud and as long as they darn well please. If you don't like it, go crash someone elses birthday (Bon Jovi perhaps).
Many haven't mentioned that "I'm On Fire" is on the second disc as a DVD video and is extremely cool, possibly working better than it does on the CD itself. The band members and friends (most notably uber-comic book writer Warren Ellis) dress up as everyone who is "On Fire" to comical and shocking results. During the chorus, Nick sways and screams in his fashion and the band plays on eternally (the video is also 17 minutes long). It is very interesting to note who Nick identifies himself with in the video. The band members appear by name and without costume near the end of the song, but somewhere in the middle there, Nick just looks at you and says, "Yep, this is me." And it probably isn't who you think.
Anyway, the CD is great. And who knows, if Nick keeps "developing" as a musician, the next effort may be Gregorian Chants laced with Ska! Keep the Party Rolling!!!
on May 4, 2003
While there is no such entity as a "Bad Nick Cave Album", this is the one I would recommend last in a long line of excellent albums. That is not to say that it is bad, but i pales in comparrison to the former albums like "No More Shall We Part" and "The Boatman's Call".
Like every Nick Cave album, this has it's various themes such as love, god, salvation, depression, and if I am interpreting it right, mental torture. The lyrics are sharp as always, but not as strong and potent as that of his earlier albums. Where "Nocturama" misses the mark is in the production, which makes the album seem over-produced, and I have the strong "been there done that" feeling when listening to the album. Since Nick Cave has built his career on the evolution of his unique sound, this album can be considered a step back rather than the leap forward that "No More Shall We Part" was.
But I will stress again that this is not a bad album, and should please the casual listened with both it's intense and melodic moments. But for people wanting something that lives up to previous works, I cannot strongly recommend "Nocturama".
on March 27, 2003
Cave's new album has been receiving somewhat mixed reviews among both fans and the press. Allow me to give a sense of perspective. Objectively, this is a good Nick Cave album -- not a great one. Those giving it 5 stars are not objectively comparing it to Nick's other work; those giving it less than 3 are not comparing it to everything else out there. A good, one might even say very good, album, Nocturma is not a Cave masterpiece; indeed, it must be said that this is his least consistent effort since Henry's Dream. Some fans, however, might prefer this to his last two offerings. Whereas the last two were almost Cave solo albums, the Bad Seeds are much more involved this time around. There are full-band raveups on this album the likes of which haven't been seen since Let Love In. Violinist Warren Ellis has a strong presence on the album, which also features prominent backing vocals from Chris Bailey, The Blockheads, and even Bad Seed Conway Savage, who is now apparently relegated to the role as Cave seems to have permanently taken over all of the piano duties himself. Standout tracks include the opener, Wonderful Life, a fine track that would have fit in smoothly on The Boatman's Call; Right Out of Your Hand, a heart-wrenchingly sad ballad; Bring It On, a fairly commercial (for Cave) song that just might win the man some new fans; Rock of Gibraltar, which is not quite "The Ship Song 2003", but quite nice in its own right, and also the rare song that prominently displays Nick's Australian accent; and Still In Love, a classic Cave "ballad" that is so drenched in irony that you can't be sure whether the narrator is dead or alive -- and, if dead, whether he killed himself or if his wife did. Dead Man In My Bed and Babe, I'm On Fire are two insanely upbeat, chaotic tracks the likes of which Cave hasn't toyed with in almost twenty years. Both are lyrically tongue-in-cheek: the former can be interpreted either as a typical Cave exercise in macabre humor, or as a paean from a dissatisfied lover. The latter is a near-15-minute mammoth of a track that, while entertaining, is no O'Malley's Bar. Granted, this track was obviously not meant to be an artistic masterpiece, but rather a fun and loose track and a climatic close to the album. It's likely to become a perennial concert closer. Many long-time fans will, no doubt, embrace these two tracks. Still, on the whole, I see this album faring better with fans of Cave's softer balladeer side. Many have compared this to The Boatman's Call, but it is closer to The Good Son. This is a good album -- a return to form, some might even say -- that any Cave fan should pick up. That said, there are some factors weighing it down. I concur with the observation of several other reviewers in noting that Cave's lyrics on this album are not up to his usual standard. Granted, while No More Shall We Part was not a musical behemoth, it was a poetic masterpiece superior word-wise to anything this side of Dylan and Cohen -- and, in my opinion, one of the 10 best albums ever released by anyone. Though some nice phrases abound on Nocturma, it just does not stack up by comparison. Tracks such as Wonderful Life, while not as optimistic as its title, leave one wondering if Cave has not mellowed somewhat. Cave has always included slow-brooding ballads on his albums -- but, whereas they used to about things like watching little girls undress and killing your mate, they now consist of (mostly) irony-free explorations of love. Also, whereas the songs on, for instance, The Boatman's Call focused on specific situations, most of the lyrics on Nocturma are very general and abstract. There is nothing wrong with this; it's just that much of the irony and sense of humor that attracted me to Cave's lyrics in the first place are no longer as abundant. Perhaps this is due to a long-overdue bliss in his personal life -- whatever the reason, it has arguably been a dearth on his inspiration. Some of the tracks on this album also seem lesser. There Is A Town and She Passed By My Window are very, very simple songs that seemingly could have been written by anyone -- and yet possess a charming and mysterious quality that leaves you wondering if they aren't, somehow, abstractly profound. Overall, though not a Cave masterpiece, Nocturma is a fine album that almost any other living artist would kill to have produced, and any Cave fan should pick it up.
on March 27, 2003
Having become a rabid Nick Cave fan in the last several years, I have been eagerly awaiting the release and arrival of Nocturama.
Industry spin promised a departure from the morose introspection of the last two albums with a return to the wide-open style of Let Love In.
Well, in truth Nocturama is a mixed bag. Lyrically, it is much softer than the last two albums and musically, it is still far away from the violence and rage that imbues much of Cave's older work. Yes, Nick Cave has come a long way since his Birthday Party days, you could almost say he is slouching toward respectability as he mellows with the years.
The best songs on the CD are Wonderful Life, the rocking Bring It On, and the riotous Dead Man In My Bed. The closing song, Babe, I'm On Fire, with its repetitions and its jejune lyrics,is much too drawn out and becomes a liability to this otherwise fairly listenable album. That everyone says "Babe, I'm On Fire" is news to no one.
Several songs, Right Out Of Your Hand and Still In Love, sound like something Van Morrison might do when feeling uninspired. You might even chance to hear them played on a soft-rock station, that's how mellow and bland they are.
If you yearn for the Nick Cave of old, forget Nocturama. But if you are a fan willing to follow him as he develops, then this CD is an obligatory stop on his meandering musical path.
on March 12, 2003
Like an embittered Bob Dylan tirelessly shoveling dirt over his 60's reputation as "protest singer," Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds have seemed adamant, in recent years, about demonstrating their versatility. Brooding, adolescent swamps of noise, gloom and frenzy that emerged from his years-long "Birthday Party" in the early 1980's slowly but diligently acquiesced to Cave's later, quieter projects with The Bad Seeds.
But the transition from angry teenage poet to sobered balladeer hardly occurred overnight. Cave's endearing pursuit of the perfect love song (he has even taught courses on the subject) surfaced only gradually amid albums that ranged from bellicose to bland. Tender ballads like "Nobody's Baby Now" squeezed into the brilliantly raucous holler that characterized Let Love In, and even 2001's languidly morose And No More Shall We Part breaks into occasional freak-out jams, as in the explosions that deliver "Oh My Lord" and "Sorrowful Wife" to their manic crescendos.
If 1997's gorgeous Boatman's Call represented the culmination of this betrayal of the mosh-pit in favor of a close-hugging slow dance at some late-night piano lounge, Nocturama delves confidently, if unevenly, into both of Cave's distinct personalities. Not since the 80's has Cave delivered as musically schizophrenic an album as Nocturama, journeying from the sexy swagger of gorgeous ballads "Wonderful Life" and "He Wants You" into grueling, Goth-rock festivals like "Dead Man in My Bed" and the nearly 15-minute-long "Babe, I'm On Fire." If Cave teetered on the verge of regurgitating old notes after the beautiful but predictably gentle No More Shall We Part, Nocturama's mixed bag of fluff and ferocity revitalizes a band nearing the end of its second decade. One would be rather hard-pressed to accuse Cave of softening in his middle age after experiencing Nocturama's occasional cacophonies.
Despite his ambitions, though, Nocturama is Cave's least-consistent effort since Henry's Dream. Released just on the heels of And No More Shall We Part, Cave and the Seeds sound a bit rushed and beleaguered at times. Where Boatman's Call blossomed with jazzy heart-break, Nocturama sputters and drags. Though the album's first five tracks are vintage Cave with a surprising burst of energy in "Bring it On," and the beautifully hyper "Dead Man in My Bed," the tracks that follow ring hollow and boring by comparison. As on past albums like Henry's Dream and The First Born is Dead on which great songs like "Tupelo" are followed by a succession of tracks that were more filler than killer, Nocturama's second half sounds quite tired of its familiar wail and the piano's flickering teardrops. One wonders whether Cave has lost his sense of humor.
It seems as though Cave has written tunes like 'Still In Love" or "Rock of Gibraltar" so many times before that they sound about as fresh as bricks of clay in the sun this time around, while "She Passed By My Window," with its bland, fluttering percussion and dull piano, comes across with little more life than a concrete wall. Even Cave's lyrics, usually as intelligent and biting as the best of his contemporaries, fall flat and stale here, as in these tired lines from "Rock of Gibraltar": "Let me say this to you/I'll be steadfast and true/And my love will never falter" and "You'd stand by me/And together we'd be/That great, steady Rock of Gibraltar." This is hardly the writing one would expect from a man who has published several books of verse.
Similarly, what might have served as an album-resurrecting stomp in the epic "Babe, I'm on Fire" sounds like a shelved outtake from Murder Ballads-perhaps the less-realized counterpart to "O'Malley's Bar"-that still hasn't quite shaken off the dust of years. More ambitious than accessible, the song carries on far too long (the lyrics comprise four pages of the album's liner notes), becoming a monotonous and jarring onslaught of noise.
Nonetheless, Nocturama demonstrates that, even in his less inspired moments, Nick Cave's commitment to authenticity and poetry remains a beacon shimmering in the darkness of pop music's bleak landscape. "It's a wonderful life/If you can find it," the dour, baritone comic quips on Nocturama's fabulous opening track, "Wonderful life," his haunted piano bemoaning the illusion of happiness. If FM radio still turns the other cheek to the music of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, it still stands as a tribute to the group's enduring authenticity. And that is something that even Cave can be happy about.
on March 10, 2003
I downloaded all of these songs before the album was released, so I knew what I was in for when I bought the album. But listening to them on my PC and listening to them in their intended order on the CD are two completely different things...to me, anyway. As they are presented on the album, these songs are, for the most part, astounding. I was also unaware of the bonus DVD, which contains the fifteen minute video for "Babe, I'm On Fire"...very cool.
Aurally, this album stands apart from much of Cave's previous work. In a way, it's very different (sonically) from the Seeds' previous outings. And in another way, some of the songs are a mixture of the Seeds' earlier offerings and some of their latest fare. "Bring It On," probably the strongest song on the entire album, has a sound to it quite unlike anything the band have done before...and it works uncannily well for them.
The strongest songs on this album are in its center, flanked on either end by the first and last three songs. The four songs from "Bring It On" to "There is a Town" are truly amazing. "Wonderful Life" has really started to grow on me, as well...particularly the second verse. And "Babe, I'm On Fire" is a fun romp. It may seem long, but let's not forget "O'Malley's Bar"...Nick's OTHER fifteen minute song. And I'd say that "Babe, I'm On Fire" is just as good as "O'Malley's Bar," if not better.
The only song on this album that I've not yet grown to love is "Right Out of Your Hand"...Nick pushes the limits of sappiness on this one, and I really can't listen to it.
As for the block of brilliance in this album's center, "Bring It On," as I've stated, is the most sonically original song on this album, and really is astoundingly good. "Dead Man in My Bed" is straight-up rock and roll...something that we don't get as often from Nick. It's a loud, fast, shouting good time of a song. "Still In Love" is hauntingly beautiful and sad...very, very moving. And as for "There is a Town"...the way the drums, piano, violin, and guitars interact on this song is mind-blowing. The music in this song practically hypnotizes me. Unbelievable.
At any rate, this is not the best Bad Seeds album, and I won't try to convince you that it is. But it's still a great album and well worth the price...especially with that bonus DVD. Nick still has yet to disappoint me, and considering the fact that I own everything the Seeds have ever released, that's saying quite a bit.
on March 9, 2003
OK, granted: This is not an album that's in the same league as "Firstborn is Dead", "Tender Prey", "Henry's Dream" or "Let Love In". That having been said, it is an album that contains several songs worthy of those fine albums, even if the whole ain't quite the sum of it's parts. "Bring It On" works surprisingly well, as does "Dead Man In My Bed". These are two of the most raucous songs Nick has done since "Jangling Jack". The swagger is back, and it's evident in the love songs also. The wonderful "Wonderful Life" has a fast beat and a booming bass line that would have felt right at home on "Let Love In". Sure, he can write wonderful, poetic lyrics, but that doesn't mean the music has to be dull and saccharine as most of the songs on the last two records were (especially "NMSWP"), and maybe this album is evidence to the fact that Nick has realized this himself. There are a couple other good songs here (tracks 2 & 3), and the rest (6-9) are, admittedly, decent at best, but the closer "Babe, I'm On Fire" is fantastic. Fifteen minutes of lunacy, delivered in classic Bad Seeds style. In short, this album may not be great, but it's a darn sight better than his last three. A sign of things to come? This fan sure hopes so.
on March 1, 2003
I first got into Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds with the morbid "Murder Ballads". I was truly enchanted by the rich baritone of Nick Cave's voice and his dark lyrics (especially on that particular album). As much as I enjoyed Nick's last album "No More Shall We Part", I thought the album was a bit repetitious. It wasn't nearly as good as "The Boatman's Call". I was excited to see that Nick had a new album out. After reading a few recent interviews with Nick Cave, I was especially intrigued by the fifteen minute epic "Babe, I'm On Fire". After hearing "Babe, I'm On Fire" for the first time, the song definitely will need more time to sink into my subconscious. I'm not really fond of songs (that aren't techno or industrial) that has a tendency to drag on for more than six minutes. It isn't really a bad song, just need time for it to grow on me. The rest of the album is absolutely incredible. I think this is Nick's best album since "Murder Ballads". Nick totally rocks out on "Dead Man in My Bed". A completely fun song that I can hear the fun that Nick has singing in this song. The lyrics are more humorous than morbid like "Where the Wild Roses Grow". I was completely blown away by the ballads "He Wants You", "Bring It On" and "Still In Love" in particular. Nick hasn't sound any better than he has on those particular songs. After listening to "Nocturama" a couple of times, it appears that this album is at the top of my list of favorite albums of the year so far.
on February 22, 2003
That's the best way to describe Nick and the Seeds latest offering. In an article in Australia's "Daily Telegraph" 20/02/03, Nick is quoted as saying he has a annoying voice in his head. He paraphrases it's criticising voice as: "This is not good enough. This is not as good as the last stuff, this is worthless, this is sh... All of this sort of stuff." And,he's right!
"No More Shall We Part" lacked the passion that has been his hallmark right from "Nick The Stripper" thru to "People Ain't No Good". And Nocturama's even worse! It's a man going thru the motions because he knows how to, but it doesn't work. Sure, there are a few clever lyrics and arrangements - big deal! Bottom line is it's prosaic. And maybe that's the problem. Since his life has taken a turn away from the streets of pain and anguish - of those decades in Melbourne, Berlin and Sao Paulo(and PJ Harvey) - into the contented bliss of family life in London, his music and voice is reflective of the mundane.
Even his style of singing has changed to sound like any other barritone form the local barber-shop.
So, my children, the lesson is . . . Even if your name is Nick Cave, you can still have a use by date. I sincerely hope the next album will prove he's not past his.
(Of course next time he's back in Oz I'll be there front and centre and be baying for 'Tupelo', like the rest of the punters)
PS If you want to hear Nick at his Peak, get "The Good Son" or "Let Love In" or even "The Best of,..."
on February 21, 2003
Cave mostly returns to contemplative on this CD. Even quiet, of course, nothing succeeds like excess as far as Nick is concerned. So these lush ballads come drenched in the Gothic, mortal trappings that he so loves -- idiot-boys speak deviant truths; an oarsman rows through the night and horrible howling winds (gosh, wonder who that would be) to wake his sleeping love; geraniums and daffoldils long for a lover's touch. I liked He Wants You, Right Out of Your Hand, Rock of Gibraltar, and She Passed By My Window -- ballads all -- a lot, but frankly none of them approach the great songs from Boatman -- Into My Arms, There is a Kingdom, and, most especially, Are You the One that I've Been Waiting For? Nonetheless, this was a four star CD until the final cut, Babe, I'm on Fire, where Cave discovers through 14 plus agonizing and repetitive minutes that everyone, rich and poor, high and low, gay and straight, loves sex -- well, duh. I fear it will become a concert standard, probably a set closer or encore, Cave racing across the stage, waving his hands and screaming the title lyrics. If so, you will be able to get a 15 minute head start to the parking lot or the metro. God-awful, and fully meriting the one star penalty I applied.