Nick Cave ‘Push the Sky Away’ – Reviw

2 May

There have always been two Nick Caves. There’s the dark, twisted, soul-searcher responsible for some of the most dark, twisted, soul searching Indie ever produced. Then there’s the softer, almost angelic introvert, responsible for some of the softest, most introspective, angelic Indie ever produced. I’m respectful of the former but my heart lies with the latter so I’m grateful that his new record ‘Push the Sky’ is certainly the product of this Cave. ‘The Boatman’s Call’ and ‘No More Shall We Part’ were Gorgeous albums that centred around simple piano movements and subtle orchestration. But where the piano was pushed to the fore in the past, here it makes no appearance, and there’s nothing to replace it either. You can hear the hollow absence right in the centre of the album – but rather than be detrimental this actually has a strange and brilliant effect. The players dance around the hole, offering the same compliments they would if it were there without trying to replace it or make up for its loss. This is a sublimely empty kind of record.

An emptiness which seems almost at odds with the man who presents himself as a content husband in these lyrics. He’s kicked the drug habit that once fuelled his fire and he’s settled down in Brighton with (judging by her appearance on the cover of the album) an attractive, younger  wife. ‘The Boatman’s Call’ and much of ‘No More Shall We Part’ were concerned with break-ups, heart break and personal loss – For much of his career Cave has been an empty vessel seeking fulfilment. Here, almost perversely considering the minimalism of the music, he seems (sometimes misleadingly) happy.

Unlike the usually concrete ‘Boatman’s Call’, the lyrics on ’Push the Sky Away’ are more abstract, more open to interpretation, but often more thrilling. ‘She was a catch’ he begins one song innocently enough. ‘We were a match’ he continues, before spinning some more elaborate wordplay. ‘I was the match that would fire up her snatch / there was a catch / I was no match.’ It’s playful and erotic and slightly sinister. In other words, classic Nick Cave. Sometimes though he’s too clever for his own good, as on ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ a song that delights unreasonably in twisting Robert Johnson and Hannah Montana into the same song (but I do love the rhyme with African Savannah’). More to the point, it’s just a bit of a boring song.

On ‘Wide Lovely Eyes’ you’d be hard pushed to find anyone more in love. Adjectives and verbs spill from his mouth: her wave is ‘crystal’. The waves are ‘blue’. Waves of ‘love.’ Her hands are ‘butterflies landing’. The sickliness of the language is only slightly undone by the bittersweet final verse, in which she waves goodbye. Even the newly content Cave isn’t happy to wallow in that happiness. And oh, you should ‘think long and hard about girls from the capital / who dance on the water’s edge shaking their asses.’ It’s not long before he advises that ‘the chill of love is coming’.

It‘s this image of a restless, pessimistic, yet ambitiously artistic soul that I‘m left with. ‘If your friends think you should do it the same, you’ve got to just keep on pushing, push the sky away.’ The sky being the visual limit. The sky being the glass ceiling.  Push it ‘till it smashes.  On this album’s closer Cave says you should push when you think you’ve got everything, which considering how happy he seems at the moment, suggests that he’s about to start pushing even harder. Never happy to be happy. Always ambitious. Always slightly screwed up. What comes next may be of great interest.

7.5 /10

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