Nick Cave, everyone’s favorite antipodean gothic poet, is back with Nocturama. As the title might suggest, the record finds Cave and company exploring love and life with their trademark macabre approach.
The album starts off with an eerily beautiful, slow-burning piece ironically entitled “Wonderful Life,” then slowly crescendos to “Dead Man in My Bed.” A 180-degree shift from the opener, it features Cave’s howling organ dueling with the frenzied guitar of his backing band.
On “Rock of Gibraltar,” Cave compares the geographical feature to a man’s “steadfast and true” love for a woman. The mood sours when his plans are “betrayed like the Rock of Gibraltar.” The metaphor is sloppy at best – did she run off with a Spaniard, or is Cave expressing his wish for Gibraltar to remain British?
The album’s closer, “Babe, I’m on Fire,” is a 15-minute, 40-verse hyperactive listing song about man’s flammable state. Think Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” meets the frenetic goth-rock of The Birthday Party’s “Release the Bats.”
Within verses, Cave’s deadpan skillfully jumps from playful to acerbic as he rhymes things like “hymen-busting Zulu” with “proud kangaroo” and “Papist” with “rapist” while the Bad Seeds play so furiously that it just might leave you winded.
Mixing the pure poetry of The Boatman’s Call with The Birthday Party’s pioneering goth, Nocturama showcases both ends of Cave’s musical spectrum. With nary an awful song, yet nary an outstanding one, Nocturama will probably be remembered in the annals of time as “that Nick Cave album with the crazy 15-minute song at the end.”