Friday, February 13, 2009

Top 20 Of 2008: #3

3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 25 years since Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds first rose from the ashes of The Birthday Party. That first Bad Seeds albums, From Her to Eternity, was everything Jim Morrison wanted to be but never could - dark, literate, interesting and intensely sexual. Morrison could never get past his own ego. You always felt like Nick Cave could take or leave all of us who admired him. He'd be doing it even if we never paid attention.

25 years on, Cave has released on of the best albums of his career. He and the Bad Seeds have been on a hot streak since 2004. That year's double album, Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, established their credentials as one of the best, most interesting bands making music. It broadened the band's horizons beyond the "band of misfits and ne'er-do-wells" label that lazy critics had tended to slap on them. Then, in 2007, Grinderman burst onto the scene spewing fluids and vitriol all over everything and everyone in its path. It was an intensely sexual album, and it signaled that Cave and the Bad Seeds may have gotten older, but they were just as depraved and energetic as ever.

Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!! continues the attitude begun on Grinderman, but whereas that album was a bit of a one-trick pony in my opinion, Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!! is a wonderfully varied effort that touches on every facet of the band's songwriting, from the jaunty storytelling of the title track to the dirty-old-man attitude of "Today's Lesson" to the quiet menace of "Night of the Lotus Eaters" and "Jesus on the Moon." There are a number of biblical references on the record, although in an interview last year with Terry Gross, Cave described the album as his least religious album to date.

The Bad Seeds have never sounded more vital as a band. There are all sorts of squeaks and whirrs on this album that sound like power tools creating not just percussion but melody as well. One imagines the band as Stomp on acid, a group of men so self-assured and familiar with each other that they could make music with just about anything you gave them. They're so good that they embody Cave's lyric on "Today's Lesson": "There oughta be some kind of law against me goin' down the street." Other bands simply don't stand a chance.


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