Album review: ‘Push the Sky Away’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Brandon Allen-Trick, Staff Writer

“Some people say it’s just rock n’ roll, oh but it gets you right down to your soul,” so speaks Nick Cave in the title track of “Push the Sky Away,” the 15th studio album by Australian alternative band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. In many ways this is their most mature, assured release in ages, but beneath every song is an undercurrent of uncertainty, which makes it immediately engaging.

Nick Cave’s sonorous baritone has never been more seductive, and the departure of founding member Mick Harvey in 2009 can be felt throughout. This is the first album recorded without Harvey, and to varying extents each song on it feels like a band taking its first steps alone and slowly being reassured of the firm ground beneath them. Accordingly, there are some minor missteps, such as “Wide Lovely Eyes” which, even through its lush organ work, rests on a jittery guitar lick and never seems to be able to piece itself together.

Even the best tracks on the album have a hard time finding balance. Such is the case with the melancholy opener “We No Who U R,” which takes its time to slowly build itself up, delayed keyboards upon flute upon girl-group backing vocals, fading away before it can quite take flight. “Jubilee Street,” the second single off the album, is probably the closest it gets to perfection, and still feels rhythmically off-kilter with its speed-up/slow-down pace. All these things, which in a lesser band might be seen as clunky, serve to entice the listener in like a fly in a honey trap.

The album closes out with the titular track, an aching funeral dirge, complete with thrumming bass and glassy church organs. “Push the Sky Away” is an epic sprawl and cry to never stop innovating, to never listen to those that would hold you back. The whole album is infused with an alluring, almost mystical Leonard Cohen-esque minimalism. It’s a slightly uneven album, but its heights are dizzying indeed. “Push the Sky Away” is a deeply challenging but rewarding work.