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Wielding Fire-and-Brimstone

Nick Cave

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Nocturama
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 20, 2002

Review by Tony Bonyata

A word of warning to fans of Nick Cave who thought the volatile sounds of his early solo work with The Bad Seeds were long behind him: Don't jump ship now.
Despite the fact that his more recent efforts still retained many of the deep dark secrets of yore, Cave's once-poison pen along with his violent band of henchmen, The Bad Seeds, seemed to have, at least on record, matured and settled into a comfortable band of middle-aged, yet still eternally hip, wise men.
While his forthcoming album, Nocturama, still holds a similar experienced outlook on life and love - as explored on the more subdued, but engaging albums No More Shall We Part and The Boatman's Call - what is different here on his twelfth album with The Bad Seeds is the free reign he allows his band. Despite the fact that lyrically Cave has considerably lightened up his penchant for Old Testament retributions, musically he and The Seeds still manage to keep the fire-and-brimstone burning hot and bright.
Whereas on his aforementioned releases the musical dangers of The Bad Seeds were mostly reduced to stalk in the shadows behind Cave's stripped down piano-driven compositions, on Nocturama Cave has given Mick Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, Warren Ellis, Thomas Wydler, Martyn Casey, Conway Savage and Jim Sclavunos the stomping ground they rightfully deserve to play out their devilish deeds. The results are immediate, explosive and, quite often, spellbinding as Cave, unlike many of his contemporaries, successfully marries the emotional and spiritual knowledge of age with the lust and passion of his youth.
While Cave still reflects on love on the more restrained, often poignant, numbers, "She Passed By My Window," "Right Out Of Your Hand," "Rock Of Gibraltar" and "Still In Love," The Seeds sprint to the frontlines on the ballistic assault of "Dead Man In My Bed," where Bargeld and Harvey's psychotic guitars spar with Cave's screaming Hammond B3 organ, as well as the epic "Babe, I'm On Fire," a biting, chaotic number which revisits the anger and passion of Cave's voice from his Murder Ballads period.
Even when it seems that he may be compromising his wicked prose and cool, enigmatic status for unadulterated pop on the first single from the album "Bring It On," Cave proves with a powerful vocal command over the swelling, grandiose chorus and Ellis' eloquent violin, that he's able to enter the pop world on his own terms.
As The Bad Seeds once again hoists their sword from the old mighty rock, Nick Cave is back where he belongs on record - wielding his band as a lethal weapon.

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