Push the Sky Away marks Nick Cave’s fifteenth studio collaboration with the Bad Seeds, beginning with From Her to Eternity, and his first without multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey (the last original Bad Seed). Harvey’s departure has been linked to feeling that he no longer had a voice in the Bad Seeds and it was time to move on to other projects where his input is valued. It has been evident over the last few releases that Harvey’s influence seemed to be waning in favor of Warren Ellis. I’m sure it didn’t help that Cave filtered the intensity of the Bad Seeds to Grinderman and didn’t ask Harvey to join him.
So now that both Blixa Bargeld and Mick Harvey are no longer Bad Seeds—what’s left? It’s the softer side of the Bad Seeds—the adult contemporary version of Nick Cave that clearly wants to embrace the atmospheric and subtle filtered through Southern gothic storytelling. Nothing really new but isn’t that what fans would expect—Nick Cave playing Nick Cave? The problem is, with Harvey’s absence, there’s no one to keep Cave in check. There’s no one to tell him that some of his songs don’t really go anywhere (“We Know Who You Are,” “Mermaids” and “Finishing Jubliee Street”) or that his distinctive baritone narrative isn’t enough when your lyrics aren’t up to snuff (“Jubliee Street”, “Higgs Boson Blues” and “We Real Cool”). Cave’s insistence of including Hannah Montana in one of his lyrics is just as disturbing as when Dylan suddenly name-checked Alicia Keys in “Thunder on the Mountain.” You don’t want those worlds intermingling—it’s unnatural and wrong.
Fortunately, not all is lost. It’s Nick Cave after all and I’m not sure if he’s even capable of turning in anything that’s total shit. It’s just disappointing that Cave would think that he’s delivered something that is on par with his back catalog, or that he could live without Mick Harvey. [Bad Seed Ltd.]
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