Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Dig Lazarus Dig
At 50 years old, Nick Cave should be aging gracefully, trying his best not to tarnish his legacy, and getting the band back together only to play county fairs, air shows, and rib cook offs whenever the boys in the band need some extra coin. He shouldn't be this relevant. He shouldn't be releasing career defining albums this late in his career, year after year, first with Grinderman, and now with The Bad Seeds.
To be fair, Cave's late career renaissance really began on the 2004 double album, Abbatoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus, with the raw, primal guitar attack of Grinderman, serving to howl and scowl that point home. On that album, Cave became the masculine, mega man, driven by emotion, and empowered by instinct. Yet, as lead single, "No Pussy Bluess," showed, behind that hairy beast of a manly man, was someone surprisingly vulnerable, frustrated in his attempts to bed the object of his desire. On Dig Lazarus Dig, with a full compliment of Bad Seeds behind him, the volume and bravado may be toned down a bit, but Cave's lyrics remain razor sharp, as he takes on the role of urban poet, popularized by Lou Reed and Jim Carroll, chronicling the travails of a cast of undesirables drugging, struggling, and stumbling their way through life in these great United States.
There's the modern day Lazarus, or Larry, as Cave prefers to call him on the title track, unable to cope with being alive, who "Ended up like so many of them do, back on the streets of New York City/In a soup queue, a dopefiend, a slave, then prison, then the madhouse, then the grave/Ah poor Larry." Then, in "Today's Lesson," we meet the damaged and disillusioned Janie, troubled by the sex hungry, nemesis of her dreams, when Cave relays "Janie says we're all such a crush of want half-mad with loss /We are violated in our sleep and we weep and we toss and we turn and we burn/We are hypnotised we are cross-eyed we are pimped we are bitched /We are told such monstrous lies."
With all the heavy living going on, one might expect the music to carry a similar weight. Yet, both "Dig Lazarus Dig," and "Today's Lesson," practically bounce with optimism. It's enough to almost forget all that f*cked up sh*t. Specifically, "Dig Lazarus Dig," featuring the same simple, buoyant melody shared across bass, organs, and vocals, has this way of burrowing deep inside your head. Sick shrieking guitars, and Cave's incisive lyrics add some bite, but it's that chorus, "Dig yourself, Lazarus, dig yourself, Lazarus, dig yourself, Lazarus dig," that'll play long after the record stops.
In other places, Dig Lazarus Dig, isn't quite so chipper. "Moonland," and its slow seductive groove, is Cave at his mysterious, brooding best. While "Night of the Lotus Eaters" hypnotizes and gyrates its way through a smokey, slinky landscape, and "Jesus on the Moon," accented by a sadly dripping string section, can pull a tear from the manliest of men. Then, on "We Call Upon the Author," Cave's mood is down right bitter. As the tension builds, guitars send static shocks across an increasingly sinister psychedelic sound scape, Cave gets increasingly anxious, and you know he has a zinger in him, and how, "Bukowski was a jerk! Berryman was best!/He wrote like wet papier mache, went the Heming-way weirdly on wings and with maximum pain/We call upon the author to explain." Damn. That man can write some feisty lines.
Fittingly, Cave's turn as the urban American poet draws to a close with his very own "Walk on the Wild Side." Backed by a sly and stylish shuffle, "More News From Nowhere" has Cave working a happening drug party with secretive women hiding out of the light in every corner of his manly pad. Being the man he is, he takes down a cyclops (it is a drug party, after all), before finding satisfaction. Again, those words he spins are outta this world, "Then a black girl with no clothes on danced across the room/We charted the progress of the planets around that boogie-wongie moon/I called her my nubian princess, I gave her some sweet-back bad-ass jive/I spent the next seven years between her legs pining for my wife." Damn.
With a band who have been around as long as Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, there can be some trepidation with diving into such a massive catalog this late in their career, but fear not, this isn't some old band riding out the days to pay their bills. This is a modern rock master at his finest, once again showing all the young ones out there how to do this thing called Rock 'N' Roll.