Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Nocturama 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Dan MacIntosh   
Tuesday, 11 February 2003

Nocturama, Anti-, 2003
| Performance 8 | Sound 8 |

Nick Cave is never going to be any kind of an evangelist for positive thinking, as “Nocturama” is another collection in his continuing series of sad nighttime dramas. He opens with “Wonderful Life,” which begins by claiming “It’s a wonderful life,” before hedging his bet with “If you can find it.” Happiness may actually be out there, according to Mr. Cave, but few are they who find it.

Cave also believes in love, but his characters only experience a deadly desperate variation on this most treasured of emotions. For example, the love song “Still In Love” takes place in the midst of a murder scene, while "Dead Man In My Bed” is about a love relationship gone sour, with a cadaver as its central character. These twisted tales alternate with more straightforward sentiments, such as the love ode “Rock Of Gibraltar” and the hand of help offered through “Bring It On.”

The sound of this album is centered around Cave’s understated piano and Hammond organ playing, which is supported by plenty of empathetic violin, unobtrusive drums and rare instances of out-front guitar. “Bring It On” is one such moment of guitar rock, which is reminiscent of Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” It also features Ian Astbury-esque vocal help from Chris Bailey (formerly of Australia’s pioneering punk band The Saints), and a little solo guitar work by Blixa Bargeld. “Dead Man In My Bed” is thudding rock that sounds the way The Waterboys might come off if fronted by Leonard Cohen. But the rolling and tumbling balladeer-ing of “Rock Of Gibraltar” is far more representative.

Cave has mastered the art of writing philosophical love songs. Tracks like “There Is A Town” contain lines like, “And so it seems/That God lives only in our dreams.” For the most part, Cave’s words are concise and to the point. Only on the far-too-long closer, “Babe, I’m On Fire,” can he be heard wasting his words. He writes laughably like Dr. Seuss here: “The clever circus flea says it/The Sailor on the sea says it/The man from the Daily Mail/With his dead refugee says/Babe, I’m on Fire/Babe, I’m on fire.”

No doubt, Dr. Seuss never sounded quite as depressed as Nick Cave can. But then again, Cave writes the kinds of songs that should always be kept safely out of the reach of children. Cave may not ever find that wonderful life he’s looking for, but it makes for a fascinating travelogue whenever he details the dark and un-sunny side of his street.

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