Album review

Songs Of Love And Haste

Much like one of the Ole' Time Religion preachers sometimes alluded to in his lyrics, those who worship at the Church of Nick Cave know exactly what they are letting themselves in for.

His last, 2001's No More Shall We Part, seemed musically and thematically the quintessential definition of his art: tear-soaked ballads of a grown man's heartache and many a meticulously arranged God-fearin' dirge. Nocturama sees Cave purposefully attempt to add new flavour to an old recipe. Written and recorded with relative haste, this is his conscious attempt to inject a sense of urgency probably not heard on a Bad Seeds album since 1994's Let Love In.

For an album borne of such restlessness, it rarely drops its guard of poised confidence. The anaemic "Rock Of Gibraltar"—rhyming "Malta" with "altar"—is a disappointing exception, and while the closing "Babe, I'm On Fire" is the kind of torrential punk-rhumba that's been missing from Cave's past couple of albums, at nearly 15 minutes it risks hammering the song's experimental novelty to death.

But such transgressions we can forgive when faced with the heart-exploding delivery of Cave and former Saints vocalist Chris Bailey during "Bring It On", the majestic opener "Wonderful Life" (with its smoking "Come Together" bassline) or the lurching odyssey "There Is A Town" which drifts dreamily upon a wistful sob of violin. And it's surely a triumph in itself that both "Right Out Of Your Hand" and "Still In Love" are as tender as anything from 1997's soul-baring The Boatman's Call.

As the first of three such 'quick-fire' albums planned before 2005, Nocturama could be the start of one of the most creatively rich chapters yet in Cave's career.


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