Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Dirty Three

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Nocturama (Anti/Mute)

Dirty Three

She Has No Strings Apollo (Touch & Go) Here comes Nick Cave, prayer book in hand. On Cave's commercial peak, 1996's killing Murder Ballads -- and for the previous dozen Bad Seed years -- it was a pitchfork. Then came the conversion, 1997's penitent The Boatman's Call, which was followed by 2001's No More Shall We Part, often as preachy as it was pitiful. The Bad Seeds' 12th and latest stab, Nocturama, resets the Aussie outlaws somewhat, the missing link between Murder Ballads and Boatman's Call. The latter is plainly spoken on Nocturama's second song, "He Wants You" ("in his boat and through the dark he rowed"), with its delicate piano melody, as well as the elegiac "Still in Love." The LP's thinly veiled trio of devotionals anchor the back end: "There Is a Town," "Rock of Gibraltar," the best song on Nocturama, and "She Passed by My Window." Love songs all, but this time, Cave Lets Love In with "Bring It On," a searing duet with sainted Saints screamer Chris Bailey and showcase for Bad Seed Warren Ellis and his wounded nightingale violin, which segues into the ripping "Dead Man in My Bed." Fifteen minutes and 38 verses of the organ-broiled "Babe I'm On Fire" feature Ellis fiddling as Rome burns at disc's end. Because Ellis has become such an integral part of the Bad Seeds, his instrumental trio Dirty Three now more than ever sounds like the audio portion of Cave's recent repertoire: creaking, elegant, feverish. She Has No Strings Apollo follows suit, a wordless, 47-minute suite that's no less Nocturama when Ellis overdubs his fiddle and piano playing on "Long Way to Go With No Punch." Apollo, meet Zeus. Now go find Hades.

(Both) ***

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