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March 9, 2008

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Filed under: Music — myarmy @ 10:12 pm

[Mute Records; 2008]

There is a certain phrase which frustrates nearly every recording artist, particularly one with a career as long as Nick Cave’s. That phrase goes to the tune of “It’s alright, but not as good as their early stuff.” I’m hoping that Cave blew that phrase out of the water with his 2004 effort Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus, however he is out to battle it again with his new album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! which is coupled with the pressure of having to back up his strong previous release. While there was his Grinderman side-project in between, which was met with mixed responses (perhaps you had to be a long-time single alcoholic male to “get” it) this is his highly anticipated return with the Bad Seeds.

The title track sets the tone for the album and with its catchy chorus hook you can understand why it’s the lead single. The band doesn’t hit full stride yet, however we do get a taste of a new style of guitar effects and Cave brings the energy and witty, jabbing lyricism we’ve come to expect.

While the general style of the album is one of hook-orientated garage rock, which Cave has dabbled into in recent times, here he adds several distinctive sounds such as the squealing organs in “Today’s Lesson” and the odd handclap in the relaxing “Moonland” which may even induce swaying at some point throughout the song.

Cave returns to familiar ground with the slow paced, spoken word track “Night Of The Locus Eaters”, but despite the fancy name it fails to grab your attention, or really hit hard emotionally. However the atmospheric background and floating guitar still provide an interesting listen.

If you were wondering whether Cave’s Grinderman venture would have any influence on future albums, well the answer is yes. This is seen most clearly on the bluesy “We Call Upon The Author”. If it doesn’t get you amped up enough to demand an explanation from the author as well, then if nothing else the intermittent use of loops and drum machine should momentarily capture your interest.

The subdued “Hold On To Yourself” and “Jesus Of The Moon” are stand outs as Cave ponders life and religion and I hang on his every word, particularly during the concluding passage of the former “One day I’ll come back to you and I’ll lie down and I’ll hold on to yourself”. There’s something undeniably real about Nick Cave, and not only can you tell he really connects to the lyrics, it means that we can too.

The albums is littered with upbeat tracks including “Albert Goes West”, “Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl)” and “Midnight Man”. While they might not be the most memorable, well actually there’s a certain guitar lick in Lie Down Here which is guaranteed humming material, they add a certain level of fun and energy to the album. While Cave isn’t quite becoming cheerful in his older age, he shows that not everything in life has a sinister twist to it.

The album peaks with the transcendent closer “More News From Nowhere”. In a beautiful tale of self-reflection Cave references some familiar characters including Miss Polly and Deanna, which is sure to please some of the nerdier Nick Cave fans. While the song just rolls along for 8 minutes on just a few chords not once does it become stale as each verse speaks not solely to your ears but much deeper too, such as the relatable “Don’t it make you feel so sad / don’t the blood rush to your feet / to think that everything you do today / tomorrow is obsolete”

Ultimately Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! isn’t going to convert many listeners who haven’t previously thought too highly of Nick Cave or the Bad Seeds. However if you’re looking for all your favourite elements of Nick Cave to be here along with just a spot of originality then you’re sure to be not one bit displeased when you here that on his next concert tour he’ll be playing a fair amount of “new stuff”.

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