Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

"Of course Cave’s always managed to mix up the clever with the crazed and the stupid. It’s just that sometimes the proportions have been known to go awry. "

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!


 


Everyone got themselves worked up into quite a lather last year with the release of Grinderman’s eponymous debut. And the reason why people got so excited was not just because it was pretty good but also because Nick Cave’s output has been pretty variable over recent years. Whereas once he could be guaranteed to deliver the goods, albums such as Nocturama left the suspicion that Cave was going through the motions. Grinderman, it was felt, was just the kind of jolt to get Cave back on the righteous path he so fearlessly trod. And so what of Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!?


 


Well, to nutshell it, it’s not bad at all. It’s not up there with the truly high points of Cave’s career, but nor is down amidst the Rock of Gibraltars. It kicks off in fine style with the title track. Garage guitars, a dumb chorus and biblical imagery: just what the doctor ordered.


 


There are a number of other tip-top tracks. Night of the Lotus Eaters features a very simple looped backing track that sounds like the muffled clank of chains somewhere down a long dank corridor. Scrapes of guitars and hummed vocals are layered over it and add to the palpable feeling of menace. The song slowly builds as bongos join and a beat emerges. The drums begin to flail and the guitar shards start to come thick and fast at you. It’s an unsettling ride.


 


We Call Upon the Author to Explain is another of the kind of tracks that Cave does so well – the incredibly simple and basic repeating track. Quick verse, quick chorus, quick verse, quick chorus…and so on and so on. It doesn’t repeat to the extent of Stagger Lee but it still does the business. And it has cool interludes when Cave shouts "prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix."


 


At the same time the song does show up Cave’s slightly wayward way with words. Cave, when on form, is one of the best lyricists in the business. But whilst we get:


 


"He said everything is messed up round here, everything is banal and jejune,


There’s a planetary conspiracy against the likes of you an me, in this idiot constituency of the moon."


 


We also get:


 


"At the same time, I feel like a vacuum cleaner, a complete sucker…"


 


On Albert Goes West, one of the weaker tracks on the album, we even find Cave rhyming vulva with revolver. Of course Cave’s always managed to mix up the clever with the crazed and the stupid. It’s just that sometimes the proportions have been known to go awry.


 


Jesus of the Moon is a sweet song about a failed love affair and the slow grind of Moonland burrows its way into one consciousness. As do several of the other songs: what gives the impression of being a somewhat cluttered album, with a lack of texture and definition, turns out to be a more complex and rewarding experience.


 


It’s clear that there are subtle changes afoot in the Bad Seeds camp. The old Bad Seeds axis of Harvey and Bargeld is gone, and it is now clear that the chief Seed is Warren Ellis. This means more loops and effects but the overall sound is still undeniably that of a Nick Cave album. Overall then: not bad.


 


Words: Chris Dawson