When it comes to the spirit of emotion, there are few artists who can summon pain at its most terrible along with all of the dirty secrets that flourish in our souls -- secrets most of us deny. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have a long history of owning this art form and of creatively executing lyrics and sounds that prove they are well acquainted with the night. However, on the band's newest album, Nocturama (Epitaph), there is a sense of light-heartedness they've never before explored.
If you're already a Bad Seeds fan, you are probably sufficiently open to different musical styles to have few troubles accepting drastic changes in melody and mood. Though the majority of songs here are mellow in content and execution, "Bring It On" offers a bit of the old pop groove while "Dead Man in My Bed" and "Babe, I'm on Fire" are in more of a traditional post-punk Bad Seeds style.
Lyrically, "Wonderful Life" ignites an almost overwhelming feeling that true love is attainable and that truth between two people can be their salvation rather than their ruin. The smooth and subtle funk of the baseline, interrupted by a staggering piano, is reined in by soft, precise percussion. It's one of the best cuts on the album.
Not to be outdone, "Right Out of Your Hand" is simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music in Bad Seed's history. It has the feel of a tear-jerking country song, but thanks to this incredible group of musicians, you get all the heartbreak minus the drawbacks of modern country music. Violinist Warren Ellis' distinctive and dynamic melodies absolutely slay me as his strings vie for attention amid Cave's piano keys.
Cave excels in the lyric department and in his willingness to take chances. Vocal contributions throughout Nocturama from the likes of the Blockheads, Chris Bailey of the Saints and Conway Savage add an element of drama to Cave's dark, sensual voice. It's clear that they're not the same band they used to be, but here Cave has done a wonderful job of promoting the band's growth into new levels of sophistication while incorporating the grit of earlier masterpieces. Cave fans should have no trouble warming up to this one.
Publication date: 06/19/03