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Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! (2008)
Producer: Nick Launay
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Night of the Lotus Eaters
Albert Goes West
We Call Upon the Author
Hold on to Yourself
Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl)
Jesus of the Moon
More News from Nowhere
Released in 2008, Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! is the fourteenth studio album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It had been four years since Nick Cave's last record - the double album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus - had shown the world he had most definitely not lost his songwriting muse. That album had displayed a subtle shift in sound, combining the intensity of his earlier work with the singer/songwriter which he had become during 1997's The Boatman's Call (something which he had then carried on into subsequent albums). After 2003's disappointing Nocturama had found Nick Cave resting on his laurels, AB/TLOO had felt like a musical revelation. Impeccably produced and electrifying, it showed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at their very best.
Most musicians, when finding such a balanced medium, would stick to the winning formula for at least another album or two, milking it for what it is worth. However, as we are all well aware, Nick Cave is not your average musician, and if Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus had felt like a revelation, then Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! is surely going to change your whole perception of just what exactly Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds are capable of. This album doesn't so much deconstruct the aforementioned winning formula, but rather knocks through it with a sledgehammer and decides to start all over again (although, some may argue that elements of this new sound could be traced back to Nick's Grinderman side project).
It's still Nick, of course, but this is a rock 'n' roll album, albeit a demented one. For the first time in yonks you can actually hear the band all playing together at once, while Nick's lyrics have taken on a rather surreal edge (see the comical, yet domineering We Call Upon the Author, which is quite possibly the coolest thing ever recorded). At times, in the past, it has felt as if Nick was the leader of the group, as he commanded his band of merry men to fulfil his purposes. And yet, here, you find the entire group taking the form of one single entity. Indeed, it is Nick Cave 'and' the Bad Seeds.
The opening title-track prances about with a knowing swagger, sounding like nothing else out there, with a viscosity running through the very lifeblood of its unrelenting chorus. It picks up the Biblical character of Jesus' close friend Lazarus and places him in modern society, along with all the modern temptations which he is subjected to. It simply shouldn't work but by Hell does it, in part due to Nick's superior narrative skills, "Meanwhile, Larry made up names for the ladies, like Miss Boo and Miss Quick. He stockpiled weapons and took pot shots at the air; he feasted on their lovely bodies like a lunatic and wrapped himself up in their soft, yellow hair!" You cannot deny that this is how stories were meant to be told.
Moonland sees Nick Cave generously demonstrating the courageous power of the band's new sound. Handclaps, R 'n' B organ riffs and soulful vocals ignite Moonland into a heartfelt reading of what it is to be alone, with a special mention going to the sheer self-inflicted vexation during the chorus, "It must feel nice... to know that somebody needs you. And that somebody is me, babe!"
For me, the defining moment on the album is Hold on to Yourself. It is a vivid recollection of a lost love, while also of a love which is held dear to the character illustrated in the song. The love is revealed to be both tender ("I'm pacing up and down my room... does Jesus only love a man who loses?") and at the same time perishable ("She rubs the lamp between her thighs and hopes the genie comes out singing"). I've been disappointed to find that critics do not often mention this classic addition to Nick Cave's work.
Other songs do not work so well but nothing so bad I'd send Nick hate mail. Night of the Lotus Eaters is a tired rehash of the likes of Tupelo, from The Firstborn is Dead, what with its droning repetition and lament-like spirit. Tupelo evolved into a monumental beast, though, whereas the careless effort employed here begs for you to put your fist straight through the speakers and rip out Nick's vocal chords. Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl) takes the rock 'n' roll thing a bit too far and Nick almost becomes a self-parody of what he has tried to achieve throughout Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! Like I said, nothing you'd hang anyone for, but these songs take away more than they add.
In an ambitious move Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds decide to close with the album's longest track, More News from Nowhere. Essentially a detailed justification of one man's multiple encounters with numerous women on a single night, More News from Nowhere matches only We Call Upon the Author for sheer variety and preposterous u-turns where lyrics are concerned, "Well, now, here comes Alina with two black eyes, she's given herself a transfusion, she's filled herself with panda blood to avoid all the confusion!" Oh, and it's a danceable hit, too. Also, see Nick noting Deanna, who hasn't been seen since a song of the same name cropped up on 1988's Tender Prey. Awesome. Picking up the pieces from the past and looking forward!
A brave step forward for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds in terms of both scope and achievements, Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! is a resounding success and is a completely unexpected recording. Honestly, who could have expected this thing? At this point I'd like to state that any way you cut it this is an inferior recording to Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, but the very fact that Nick Cave has decided to re-imagine the entire sound of his outfit is worth an honourable mention, even more so because he managed to pull it all off with such panache. This, however, poses new questions for the future.
The one resting on the tip of my tongue, is, where exactly do Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds go from here? Will we see them build upon this sound and fine-tune the formula, or will they attempt something completely new? It'd certainly be no bother to 'endure' this formula for another album. Maybe even another two.
Read more reviews at www.danielkempreviews.co.uk
The long-awaited new album from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds opens with the track Today's Lesson, characterised by an unusual retro-synth sound, and one of the more rockier and up-beat songs in the band's repertoire. It really sets the tone for the album - if that is possible for such a multi-faceted and creative record. A complex and challenging album, this is one that will reward multiple listens, growing on you over time as you discover something new in the tracks each time.
Moonland is a return to a slightly more expected sound, dominated by Nive Cave's dark and grimey voice. As fans of the man expect, the lyrics are at the forefront of his brilliance as a musician and songwriter. Sometimes reducing his voice to a scratchy and growling whisper, the song is nevertheless powerful with it's strong bass-line and the whining electric guitars that provide appropriate crescendoes.
Night of the Lotus Eaters is a track that the haters of Nick Cave will point to as more proof that his often disjointed, experimental music is self-indulgent and unenjoyable. Indeed it is a sound that caters to very specific tastes. With a picked, dark baseline and solitary wailing electric guitar notes overlaid with Cave's vocals, it won't be to everyone's taste. But shouldn't musicians be encouraged to experiment? In this particular instance I think the bass is interesting enough to justify the track, and is one that certainly grows on you.
Albert Goes West and Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl) are much more like a traditional rock songs, with a much fuller sound and faster percussion. Personally, while I can enjoy these tracks (particularly the latter, with the addition of a sprinkling of piano) for what they are, it is the more subtle, poetic element of Nick Cave's work that interests me the most. We Call Upon The Author is the perfect compromise between these two elements - strong, thought-provoking lyrics delivered in an almost spoken-word style by Cave, but still with a lot of energy, complemented well by the full band, synth, and driving drums.
Jesus Of The Moon is again a slightly slower track, with Cave altering his vocals to suit perfectly the gliding violin, pipe, and piano accompaniment. A beautiful, plaintive song, it is not as sweet as the classic Cave lovesongs like Ship Son or Into My Arms, but certainly shows the softer side of this sometimes angry, gothic rocker.
The same can be said of Midnight Man, although rather than sorrowful, the accompanying music seems to glisten with a combination of synths, guitars, and other unidentifiable sounds. The song builds to a climactic chorus and shows that, unlike a lot of bands these days, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have no trouble filling a whole album with quality tracks and have no need to revert to fillers for the last few slots on the record.
Indeed the final track on the record, More News From Nowhere, is a classic Cave closing with it's simple arrangement, prominent vocals with unusual timings, and storytelling element. A fitting end to a largely successful album.
There is definitely plenty on this album for Nick Cave fans of longstanding, however some of the rockier, more accessible songs may open up the band to a slightly wider audience. I would love to see this happen as I think that the level of performance, creativity and seriousness in the music is what is missing in a lot of other modern rock bands. Sure, you could pick a few favourite tracks and just buy those individual MP3s, but I think it's really worthwhile to get the whole album and invest some time getting to know it. Who knows, you might realise it's just what's been missing from your collection - there's certainly no other band that's got the same sound.
I'm shocked to see that this album hasn't been reviewed yet, it's one of the best albums so far this year and keeps Nick Cave in good form following the side-project with Grinderman (No Pussy Blues) which it actually has quite a lot in common with as keeps generally with a garage style throughout.
Dig Lazarus Dig is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 14th studio album and includes the line-up of Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Martyn P Casey, Jim Sclavunos, Thomas Wydler, James Johnston and Conway Savage.
1 - Dig Lazarus Dig -
The album, first song and hit single Dig, Lazarus, Dig takes its name from Lazarus who according to the story in the bible was brought up from the grave by Jesus. Nick Cave claims to have always wanted to know how Lazarus felt about this and this song shows the situation from Lazarus's point of view and also brings it to New York.
Dig Lazarus Dig is a great song with quality lyrics and a superb hook line. 10/10
2 - Today's Lesson - Catchy song that gets better and more rowdy as it goes on, intriguing lyrics. 8/10
3 - Moonland - Not really my favourite song on the album, sounds like Tom Jones doing Frank Zappa and it's all a bit dramatic and the song isn't really going anywhere. 4/10
4 - Night of the Lotus Eater - Back to form with slow psychedelic sounds and ghosty vocals, many might not appreciate but I think the lyrics are fairly thoughtful and I like the song 8/10
5 - Albert Goes West - Rockier than the other tracks so far, the closest comparison I could find would be a mixture of REM/David Bowie. Albert goes West, Henry went South, Bobby goes North and then East whilst "me" doesn't go anywhere and enjoys simply observing. Good tune 9/10
6 - We Call Upon The Author to Explain - Nick rants like a bit of a neruotic mad man here about the wrongs of the world, whilst the band rock along solidly throwing the odd psychedelic Grindermanesque sound and generally speeding up at the end. A little taster:
Who is this great burdensome slavering dog-thing
That mediocres my every thought?
I feel like a vacuum cleaner - a complete sucker!
It's f***ed up and he is a f***er
But what an enormous and encyclopaedic brain!
I call upon the author to explain
7 - Hold on to yourself - A slow paced song with twangs of brilliance and the constant sound of seagul aliens in the background (listen to it, you'll see what I mean), once again it's the lyrics that do it for me. 8/10
8 - Lie Down Here - quick paced song with the chorus "Lie Down Here and be my girl", it's not terrible but it's not up to the standard of the other songs on the album in my eyes, sounds like a mixture of Iggy Pop/Dwighty Fry (from the Alice Cooper song) crooning over a girl. Poor. 5/10
9 - Jesus of the Moon - Clear song, vocally and musically that has hints of classical and folk music and is generally quite a dramatic love song with good lyrics and Nick strangely has a simlar voice to Neil Diamond on this track. The voice is almost exactly the same as "Sweet Caroline".. it's spooky! 9/10
10 - Midnight Man - Oriental/The Stranglers style backing music which kicks into a bit of an anthem alongside Nick Cave shouting "Everybody's coming round to my place
Everybody's coming round to my place
Everybody's coming round, oh baby, don't you see
Everybody wants to be your midnight man"
Very good track and pretty fun too. 9/10
11 - More News from Nowhere - A funky kind of song, a real rock n roll track with a Johnny Cash style of rhyming and truly crazy lyrics that very people can come up with and fit into a song, this could prove a truly legendary song in time. 10/10
Overall a great album with some great tracks, often quite different from each other and some with truly superb lyrics. Definitely worth having!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
2 Today's Lesson
4 Night Of The Lotus Eaters
5 Albert Goes West
6 We Call Upon The Author
7 Hold On To Yourself
8 Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl)
9 Jesus Of The Moon
10 Midnight Man
11 More News From Nowhere