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Nick Cave's double wallop

Nick Cave

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus
(Mute Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 26, 2005

Review by Tony Bonyata

Over the course of rock singer Nick Cave's last few studio albums, it appeared that the fire-and-brimstone power that this one-time hardcore punk rocker had once possessed had given way to a decidedly more mature, world-weary man - albeit a man still clutching his tattered and frayed copy of the Old Testament tightly under his arm. But despite the fact that, on record, the Australian singer may have traded in his howling yelps from his early days with the influential goth-punk band The Birthday Party for a decidedly more dignified croon, his subject matter - often delving into murder ballads, devilish dirges and bleak love sonnets - is still as potent as ever.
Cave's latest release, Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus, is actually two separate albums packaged together. Of the two, Abattoir Blues musically plays out as the devil's advocate, while The Lyre of Orpheus revisits the more mature side of Nick, although there are certainly a couple of exceptions that overlap on each album.
Abattoir Blues opens with the high voltage jolt of "Get Ready for Love," a stomping, righteous hymnal complete with Cave bellowing the coming of Christ over screeching guitars that claw up the number's rhythmic brick wall, all while a gospel choir reacts to their leader's wails with epiphanic call-and-response praises. Cave has always managed to find religion in the most unlikely of places, but here he's enlightened through something as simple as love as he poetically snarls, "I searched the seven seas and I've looked under the carpet and browsed through the brochures that govern the skies. Then I was just hanging around, doing nothing and looked up to see His face burned in the retina of your eyes."
Cave further incorporates the use of gospel singers on the cagey rock number "Hiding All Away," while his deep resonant voice spins a shadowy tale that hearkens back to his 1996 perverse masterpiece Murder Ballads. And the immediate pop sensibilities that flourish through the songs "Nature Boy" and the more melancholic "Let the Bells Ring" are easily some of the most accessible songs from Cave's two-decade canon of material.
The title track of The Lyre of Orpheus opens the second disc - a brooding, often humorous retelling of the Greek musician and his magical instrument, before Cave and The Bad Seeds beachcomb their way into the sunny, Caribbean pop of "Breathless." While the number "Babe, You Turn Me On" recalls the starker material from his last two efforts (2001's No More Shall We Part and 2003's Nocturama), Cave again delivers another slice of lovely, lilting pop on the song "Easy Money."
"St. John of the Cross" did his best stuff imprisoned in a box, and Johnny Thunders was half alive when he wrote "Chinese Rocks," Cave warbles on "There She Goes, My Beautiful World," which probably best sums up that deep down inside, even as he approaches middle age, he's still a preacher pounding the pulpit through the body of a punk rocker.

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