Thursday, 21 February 2008

I used to be down with the faithful, man - now I'm hanging with the doubting Thomases...

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds "Accidents Will Happen" [b-side from Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! single]

Yet another Nick Cave-related post, I'm afraid. Thanks to the uni paper, I've recently acquired a copy of the man and his Seeds' new album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! I'm terrified witless by all the blurb on the back of the sleeve of the promo (words to the effect of "You must not lend a copy of this album to anyone, you must not play this album to anyone named Frances, you must not play this album on Guy Fawkes' night or listen to it while wearing a beefeater's hat, and YOU DEFINITELY MUST NOT PUT IT ONTO THE INTERNET"), so rather than make Mute Records hate me, I'm going to upload the b-side to Mr Cave's latest single for your listening pleasure instead. It could well be another showcase for his limited guitar skills, and the whole track's a pretty light-hearted affair, bordering on the countryish. Still, it would have found a rather loving home on the album, but who am I to argue with a 'tache like that?

Anyway, to tide you all over until the album itself drops (March 5th, UK-dwellers), here's my review of the LP, written (as I said previously) for the Leeds Student paper with a pretty compact limit of 500 words...


NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" (Mute)

In 1989, the NME gathered three great elder statesmen of what was then called indie – The Fall's Mark E Smith, Shane MacGowan and Nick Cave – for a drink or twenty. Nearly as many years on, Smith continues to be "always different, always the same", while MacGowan is tragically wheeled out every Christmas like a ramshackle pantomime horse on its last legs. Only Nick Cave has, since then, written almost all of his best work, continuing to at least try to forge out a new path with each album with absolutely no regard to relevance to the world around him. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is his fourteenth album with the ever-faithful Bad Seeds behind him, and his first since last year's brutal Grinderman project, and finds him sounding far more bloodthirsty than his fifty years should allow.

The title track shows The Horrors exactly how it's done, welding a Nuggets-style organ riff to shards of visceral guitar noise, while Cave waxes lyrical about what would happen if Lazarus was reborn in New York City in the 70s. As you do. Conversely, tracks like "Hold On To Yourself" and the droning "Night of the Lotus Eaters" see the band at their atmospheric best, evoking the deserts of their native Australia for the first time in years. Meanwhile, "Lie Down Here (and Be My Girl)" and "Albert Goes West" show off the kind of noisy pop that Cave has perfected over his thirty(!) years in the game.

"We Call Upon the Author" is a self-mocking ode to those who look to literature for the answers to life, the universe and everything. Clearly the epitome of the album's quest for "the haemorrhaging of words and ideas", Cave words are practically epileptic here, referencing writers left, right and centre ("Bukowski was a jerk! Berryman was best!"), and even stopping the song dead in its tracks to welcome some guy named Doug to the festivities. No, really. Meanwhile, if The Bad Seeds sounded hungry anywhere else on the album, they sound fucking ravenous here; inexplicable noises appear at every turn, while the tongue in cheek backing vocals only add to the gruesome fun. Potential career highlight, much?

"More News From Nowhere" brings the album to a serene close, drifting through a beautiful chord progression, with more disembodied backing vocals from the Bad Seeds. while seemingly surveying Cave's entire career through a series of spooky characters, from the ghosts of Deanna and the Cyclops to a thinly-veiled reference to one-time beau PJ Harvey. In the album's press release, Nick Cave states that "I want to make as many records as I possibly can", but it does seem like "More News..." could have been an ideal place to stop. Still, as a whole, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is far from perfect (taxi for "Moonland"), and comes across more like a signpost towards yet another phase of his ever-evolving career; if that does indeed turn out to be the case, bring on album number fifteen. Keep digging, Nick. Keep digging.



Hope you enjoyed that, and look out for more frequent posts over the coming months. Honest, guv.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Johnny Cash died today, and you say "It's not like Elvis though, is it?"...

The Wave Pictures "Now You Are Pregnant"

I first heard about The Wave Pictures when I saw Darren Hayman play upstairs at a pub in Leeds late last year. Unlike the majority of those who hear them for the first time, I wasn't overly taken, and went downstairs to get a drink and some fresh air. If I'd stayed, I would have been subjected to the kind of jangly indiepop that I hold so dear, with a lyrical flair that tends to have me swooning by the PA system after the first witty couplet. Bully for me then, really.

Still, I couldn't shake the feeling like I needed to seek them out further, and picked up their debut Moshi Moshi 7" (their previous releases - and there are many - were mostly self-released affairs) on my last day back home in London. "We Dress Up Like Snowmen", billed as the main feature, most likely because it's a faster one, was a nice enough Modern Lovers-esque chugger, with some wonderfully nasal vocals and the odd funny line here and there ("I went to the movies...FOR THREE YEARS"). It was alright; passable stuff, but it didn't really encourage me to flip the vinyl over the examine the delights on the other side...

I'm glad I did though - "Now You Are Pregnant" is one of the most heartbreaking songs I missed out on last year. A countrified waltz-time ballad, it comes over like one of the best songs Hefner never wrote, with some exquisite wordplay thrown in for good measure ("Stacks and stacks of slacks and black platform shoes" in particular just rolls off the tongue), sung by a nasal, tone deaf Morrissey (and I mean that in the best possible way). There's a great deal of girl-based angst to be found here, but it falls on just the right side of the emo divide, and the whole thing ends with an extremely satisfying singalong that will irritate Johnny Cash fans the world over. In short, it's just plain gorgeous; a lush pop gem not to be missed.