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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” Review

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Nick Cave Dig Lazarus Review

Age is only important when numbers are empowered, it is the knowledge and depth of a spirit which embodies true substance. All the same, having crossed half a century, the idea behind who Nick Cave is leans increasingly closer to that of an ageless poet. The Guardian‘s Alexis Petridis concluded his thoughts on Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! by explaining his envious take on Cave, “It’s hilarious, chilling and exhilarating: further evidence of the unique and enviable position Cave finds himself in at fifty.” And while 50 is just a number, so too is 14 – a number representing how many albums Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have released. With 14 studio albums, a triple disc rarities collection, multiple live releases, a decade old retrospective release, and over 200 songs behind them – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have just released a set of new material depicting the band as lively, inspired and full of substance as ever.

In 1996 Pat Blashill wrote of Cave in his photography-centric Noise from the Underground, speaking too of Lydia Lunch and Foetus retrospective glances, “Cave and these others authored a new American gothic, a haunting subgenre of spooky and screeching music with lyrics about serial killers, AIDS, or other modern madnesses. In the hands of these singers, a little knowledge was a powerful artistic device.” If only one could look ahead into the future and see Cave as an enduring storyteller rather than a brooding intellectual one might not have been startled by the bounce and drive of “Albert Goes West.” The song’s unwavering guitar-heavy rhythm depicts a version of the Bad Seeds rarely seen, an honest-to-god rock band. Uncharacteristically the song’s fast pace allows the listener to dispel theory that Grinderman had little impact on Dig!!!, rather Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey, and Jim Sclavunos seem to have imposed a new energy onto the rest of the band, one reminiscent to that found in 2003′s “Bring it On” or even 1996′s “The Curse of Millhaven.”

And while consistently scattered, the smoothness of the harmonic shift throughout the album suggests a band comfortable with itself. “Today’s Lesson” finds the Bad Seeds chanting repetitively “We’re gonna have a real cool time” only to be balanced by the dramatics of Cave, “cause the game is never won by standing in any one place for too long,” sung on “Jesus of the Moon.” Equaling each directional commitment is a reverse thrust in theme, for each American gothic agonizing in retreat there is a reckless Australian screeching with enthusiasm and vibrancy.

The dynamic of each song may gesture to any number of previous recordings by the band, but the wonder of Dig!!! comes in that it’s an album unexpected. The record delivers with no waste, perfectly identifying the strengths of the band without reaching extravagantly far. “Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix,” rants Cave repeatedly in “We Call Upon the Author,” as if to say that he has finally learned when to cut himself short to strengthen his words as a whole – giving them more substance through emphasis than through dictionary-length thoroughness. And who are we to question, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is brilliant in its diversity, fluent in modern diversions and — after all — Cave is 50 now, he probably knows what he’s doing.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]