Well it was about time. Nearly five years have elapsed since Cave’s last full-band outing, 2008’s superb Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, and with a title as grand-sounding as Push The Sky Away fans might expect a gloriously noisy return on this, their fifteenth studio album. But they would be wrong, for this album has much more in common with the hushed introspection of The Boatman’s Call than the classic ‘unholy racket’ with which Cave is typically associated.
This may be connected with the departure of Mick Harvey, Cave’s long-term creative foil, from the group in 2009, making Push The Sky Away the first ever Bad Seeds album without him. The sombre ‘Wide Lovely Eyes’ is built upon a texture of dampened guitar strings, while a throbbing, tightly-wound bass riff is overlaid with Warren Ellis’ scratched viola on the sinister ‘Water’s Edge’. It takes until the fourth song for the Bad Seeds to reach any real volume, on the masterful ‘Jubilee Street’. Elsewhere, the album’s stripped-down sound is reminiscent of Cave’s side-project Grinderman. ‘We Real Cool’ features a guttural, primal yet restrained bass part, and the closing title track is bare and brooding. The clear highlight is ‘Higgs-Boson Blues’, a typically Cave-esque ‘science vs nature’ discourse that intensifies over its eight-minute length.
Push The Sky Away is one of those ‘growers’, whose charms reveal themselves on repeated listens. It is not that immediate or forceful in making its point, and requires a degree of concentration. But it may well be regarded as one of the Bad Seeds’ best artistic statements in years to come.
Words: Ed Biggs