A surprise new album from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, minus the rest of the Bad Seeds has just emerged, without warning! For the most part, it’s a rather comforting listen.
Hand of God opens quietly for its first 20 seconds before a rush of descending keyboards turns the track into something else entirely. The track mashes together a disco beat, serene strings with a dramatic “hand of god! hand of god” chant. It’s brave but doesn’t quite work. The ludicrously over-the-top White Elephant builds up gradually as Cave sings some pretty dodgy lyrics: “I’m a Botticelli Venus with a penis”, or, “I’ll shoot you in the fucking face”. The song gradually becomes completely overblown with a melody that sounds just like Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon!
The rest of the album is far more tranquil and works far better than the aforementioned tracks. Old Time is a fairly standard Cave brooder (a good thing!) with Warren Ellis excelling on violin. The title track is almost pleading, reminiscent of Girl In Amber (off Skeleton Tree). Albuquerque is possibly even more gorgeous, beginning like their 2001 classic Love Letter, adding some soaring strings. Lavender Fields has a wide-screen, cinematic quality to it, and the organ-dominated Shattered Ground bears the influence of Cave and Ellis’ soundtrack work. Final track Balcony Man ends the album gracefully, Cave emerging to sing “this morning is amazing and so are you” over stately piano before concluding “what doesn’t kill you just makes you…. crazier”, a line that is bound to be dissected by the fans.
Although at times you stand back and admire Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ music more than dive in and enjoy it, those who found Skeleton Tree and Ghosteen to their tastes won’t be disappointed. Sure, it’s a bit much at times (Hand of God, White Elephant) but rather than fire and brimstone, Cave and Ellis do a fine line in smouldering these days. It suits them!
1. Hand of God
2. Old Time
4. White Elephant
6. Lavender Fields
7. Shattered Ground
8. Balcony Man
Hand of God