Reconsidering the new Nick Cave record; Hy-Vee, Limbaugh, CVS, The 49’r and Ben Gray (in this week’s column)…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
I was glancing at Chris Aponick’s activities at SXSW, and it looks like he was trying to hit all the shows I would have tried to hit last night: Iggy and The Stooges, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and most of all, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
I came to Cave’s new album, Push the Sky Away, a few months after its January release. I listened to it right after it came out, but just wasn’t feeling it.
Which reminds me of something wizened Domestica frontman Jon Taylor told me way back when his band was called Mercy Rule. As we were driving in his van on the way to a gig in Des Moines (I was along writing a feature for The Note) Jon talked about how music reviews were inherently skewed based on whatever mood the reviewer was in at the time s/he listened to the record.
“If the guy’s in a crappy mood, he’s going to give the record a crappy review.” I’m paraphrasing here. It’s been almost 20 years. Still, truth never ages, and Jon’s comments were spot on. If you’re in a shitty mood, you’re less likely to give some as-yet-unheard music a fair shot. The same thing’s true if you’re distracted or simply not paying attention.
That’s kind of what happened with this new Nick Cave album. I first listened to it on Spotify while doing something else — maybe I was running or writing — whatever it was, I wasn’t able to really absorb the album.
And then last week I listened to it again while making dinner — specifically a chicken florentine dish that takes about an hour of mindless focus — when suddenly the album came to life as the best thing I’ve heard so far this year. I turned around an listened to it three more times on repeat, mesmerized.
As with most of his recordings, Cave is almost perversely dramatic in his singing/speaking, as if telling dark lies at midnight, which btw, is the best time to listen to this record. The centerpiece is a track called “Jubilee Street,” that starts out with a quiet repeated guitar line and Cave’s storytelling, slowing building to a massive crescendo over six and a half minutes. Its style and sound is exactly like something written by the Kadane Brothers, the sparks behind classic bands Bedhead the The New Year. But instead of Matt Kadane’s droll vocal delivery you get Cave at his most urgent and most triumphant. Huge.
The rest of Push the Sky Away is just as cool. From the dark rumble of “We Real Cool” (with the classic line “Wikipedia is heaven when you don’t want to know anymore,” to the nearly 8-minute-long rock eulogy “Higgs Boson Blues” that calls out both Hannah Montana and her real counterpart: “Miley Cyrus floats in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake and you’re the best girl I ever had…”
There are moments when I’m reminded of Robbie Robertson’s forays into spoken word drama — his “Somewhere Down the Crazy River” comes to mind — but Cave is never nearly as corny and never less than sincere.
Let me join Aponick’s chorus in saying that a certain music festival (or promoter) could do much worse than getting Cave or Iggy onto an Omaha stage.
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In this week’s column, a look at the futility of boycotts featuring Facebook, Hy-Vee, Rush Limbaugh, CVS and The 49’r. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.