Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
No More Shall We Part
Nick Cave is the finest blues singer alive today. He doesn’t perform blues in the conventional sense. His blues music is a distillation of the primal elements that make up this kind of music. It is literate and informed as much by the Hebrew Bible and William Blake as inspired by the likes of Muddy Waters. Musically, his canvas is created from a palette that incorporates elements of post-punk, piano, gospel and folk harmonies.
On this release, Cave blends these disparate elements together by once again returning to the twin themes of love and desolation, and desire versus damnation. The love songs on this disc — “Love Letter,” “Sweetheart Come,” and “Gates to the Garden” — provide the usual Cave musings on love, and hearken back to the piano-centered sound of 1997’s The Boatman’s Call. The other portion of songs on this disc, the songs of woe and tribulation, includes “As I Sat Sadly by Her Side,” “Hallelujah,” “Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow,” and “Oh My Lord.” Particularly effective is Cave’s repetition of themes and images from one song to the next, so it provides some continuity without devolving into a concept album. On the latter two tracks, Cave’s imagery evokes the work of Dylan, particularly his “Ballad of a Thin Man.” On both “Fifteen Feet” and “Oh My Lord,” we find protagonists who are faced with cruel circumstances they can barely comprehend. Or, as the narrator states: “Someone cries, ‘What are you looking for?’ I scream, “The Plot, The Plot!’ I grab my telephone, I call my wife at home, she screams, ‘Leave us alone!’ I say, ‘Hey it•s only me.’ The hairdresser, with his scissors, he holds up the mirror. I look back and shiver; I can’t even believe what I see.”
Cave has forsaken the world of Faulkner and the catharsis of violence from which his earlier work was steeped. Instead, on this disc, we find him involved in a world reminiscent of Beckett’s work; that is, a world wholly without logic and at once pathetic and absurd. Only on the last song does Cave offer an olive branch and bridges these worlds: Love. Love is the only consolation, albeit a small one, that may transcend the bitterness and smallness of humanity. It is here that Cave locates salvation.