Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Nocturama

From his early days with brooding post-punk outfit the Birthday Party to his continuing work with the Bad Seeds, Nick Cave has consistently maintained his reputation as equal parts enigmatic musician and intellectual wordsmith. Twelve albums later, Cave is still eloquently confronting themes of love, irony and the black and white of feeling and experience. In an attempt to capture the spontaneity of the songwriting and performing process, Nocturama's ten songs were learned, practised and recorded within one week on a leg of their 2002 tour, and the results are not as unpolished as you'd think. Quite the contrary, in fact, no doubt thanks to the skilled line up, including Einstürzende Neubauten's Blixa Bargeld (guitars) and long-time band-mate Mick Harvey (almost everything else). Cave's legions of admirers will relish all that gives this album the Bad Seeds fingerprint. Beautiful arrangements characteristic of Cave are helped along by his gentle piano as the disc opens on a softer contemplative note. "He Wants You," a tender serenade to a lost love, leads straight into the violin-driven waltz "Right Out of Your Hand." It isn't too long before the mood expectedly changes, bringing us the upbeat "Bring It On" and "Dead Man in My Bed," a scathing ironic number with dark humour, à la 1996's Murder Ballads. Cave returns to more visceral subject matter with "Still In Love" and "She Passed By My Window" but brings things to a fireball of a finish with the bluesy, staggering 39-stanza "Babe, I'm On Fire." The lyrics in this collection are as varied and complex as Cave's persona and it is hard to ascertain whether they are rooted in experience or imagination or both. Either way, these songs unfold like chapters in another of Cave's novels and tell a story with every note. (Anti)