Push The Sky Away // Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds // 18.02.12 // Bad Seeds Ltd.
“Well, if I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children, then Push The Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator and Warren’s loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat.” Nick Cave
How close is prolific to predictable? The answer seems to be too close for comfort for Nick Cave. Push The Sky Away swerves from 2008’s raucous Dig, Lazarus, Dig! in a change of direction that seems to unpick and reassemble some of the classic elements of a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album in a new unrecognisable way.
Instead of the usual raging, there is resignation. Songs like Jubilee Street and Water’s Edge have the voice of an uncomfortable middle-aged man, trying to recapture his youth through someone else’s or disapproving of those who still have theirs. Higgs Boson blues gets closest to the grandiose Nick Cave setpiece, but like the others avoids the coherent storytelling that we have to take for granted from Cave. The unfocused lyrics add the feeling of a classic NC&BS album heard through the slide into dementia.
Cave no longer seems happy to be the image he once created for himself as the unageing, dark Peter Pan of pop. The eternal jet black hair and skinny frame are still there, but instead of songs about Americana, politics, sex and murder, the action is relocated to provincial Brighton, where Cave lives a civilised existence with Susie Bick, his model wife (the unfeasibly hot woman on the album cover).
Frustration abounds in Push the Sky Away and you can hear the same jarring notes when Cave curtly advises his fans to lower their expectations (like him) during Twitter Q&As, or sounds off in interviews about the nightmarish complications around writing his script for Lawless. Cave recently told The Guardian he is worried about people finding out he was never actually that good. All the activity, the books, poetry, side projects and film scripts seem to be an effort to not let that happen. To keep moving so that his critics can never find him. Except, geographically, we all can. And if Push The Sky Away is anything to judge by, physically and mentally he is trapped just by the coast in Brighton.