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Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.) 

If you're aggrieved because Push the Sky Away is a peculiar variation on the original Bad Seeds—with Mick Harvey departed but Barry Adamson guesting—then you're likely still upset about Cave abandoning most of the Birthday Party for his solo career. For others, however, the sparse, hazy sheen of Push the Sky Away resounds as a departure from the hammer-fist approach of recent Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and a decidedly different sound than Grinderman's acid blues.

Opener "We Know Who U R" is set to icy, staccato loops programmed by Warren Ellis, Cave's current musical Svengali, which cement the album's tonal template. Meanwhile, the fat, low and haunted synths of the titular closing track leave an ominous, lingering residue. Still, for all its alien sounds—washes of guitars, humming electric pianos, brushed percussion—the album is often quite sanguine, from the cooing, beautiful chorus of "Wide Lovely Eyes" to the trembling musical pileup of "Jubilee Street."

Lyrically, Push the Sky Away is highlighted by distance, be it trips to outer space or far-off mermaids on the rocks. And, despite its frequently surrealistic imagery, Cave anchors things to the here and now. The saggy, aimless "We Real Cool" boasts a "Wikipedia" mention, while both Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus get mentions in the excellent noir-blues trawl of "Higgs Boson Blues."

For an album whose presentation suggests a minor effort, Cave and company still execute at a remarkably high level. "Mermaids," a song that blossoms from a bawdy limerick to a feverish ballad, helps illustrate the dark, crafted appeal of Push the Sky Away.

More by Michael Petitti

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