Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2008)

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1. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! 2. Today’s Lesson 3. Moonland 4. Night Of The Lotus Eaters 5. Albert Goes West 6. We Call Upon The Author 7. Hold On To Yourself 8. Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl) 9. Jesus Of The Moon 10. Midnight Man 11. More News From Nowhere

 

Hey there, nonexistent reader. Sorry for the sporadic updates of late. They can be easily explained by the fact that recently I’ve spending most of my downtime watching Mad Men on Netflix instead of writing asinine reviews that nobody reads except my girlfriend and spambots (I got a comment from “smallpox” today! I hope it’s not contagious!). That show is so good! It’s smart! I love smart entertainment! Like Nick Cave! That’s why I always choose to Nick Cave instead of insipid bullshit like, I dunno, Kings Of Leon, and why I watch Mad Men and not Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Because Nick Cave and Mad Men are smart and the alternatives are stupid. These are the dilemmas I face on a daily basis. I lead an exciting life, I know.

Even though Nick Cave, as of April 2012, has had one of the most amazingly consistent careers in rock history—and I don’t think I’m exaggerating—Nocturama and the squishier parts of The Good Son and The Boatman’s Call proved that he’s certainly not above a bit of suck every now and again. So you’d figure the oldness bug would get to him eventually and he’d begin the sad, slow decline that every aging rocker experiences eventually. Considering the fact that he was 50 when he made this record, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, the time for this seemed riper then ever. However, Nick Cave is the most badass mutha ever, so he instead celebrated his 50th birthday by growing a mustache and, in 2007, starting a stripped-down side project, Grinderman, which served as an outlet for him to play some of the nastiest, most primal garage rock imaginable – and the most hard rocking music he’d made since the Birthday Party. Invigorated by this detour, and by a slightly revamped Bad Seeds lineup—keyboardist Conway Savage, who had been around since Henry’s Dream, is out, and drummer Jim Sclavunos, formerly of Sonic Youth, is in full-time after splitting drumming duties with Thomas Wylder for the last few albums—he made an album that begs the question: has any 50-year old ever rocked this hard?

I don’t know the definitive answer to that question, but I do know that it takes a musician with access to years’ worth of experience, wisdom, and a swollen prostate to make garage rock as sophisticated and original as that found on Dig. It’s not easy to take a riff as basic and endlessly recycled as the one that drives the title track and then turn it into a rock song a listener won’t feel like they’ve heard a million times before. But said opening cut sounds remarkably fresh. Not only is its “dig yourself…” refrain maddeningly catchy, but its spoken-word verses see Nick sounding more eager to spit out his lyrics than he has since Henry’s Dream as he transposes the biblical tale of Lazarus to a modern dystopia (also known as New York City). “We Call Upon The Author” follows in a similar vein, serving as a blackly comedic letter of grievances to God, its many effusive lines shouted in between dub-like electronic breakdowns. Later, Nick draws from source material even older than the bible on “More News From Nowhere,” an absurdist, 8-minute retelling of the Odyssey over a loose Velvet Underground-like groove. And age certainly hasn’t killed the man’s libido (unless it did and Cialis brought it back, which I suppose is possible); the lyrical narratives “congregate around the inner section of Janie’s thighs” and take a swing through “the weeping forests of La Vulva,” among other similar locales, before the album concludes.

Not only is there more sex than ever on Dig, but there are also more guitars. Nick played guitar for the first time with Grinderman, and that experience seemed to carry over to the songwriting for Dig. No previous Bad Seeds song had guitars that crackle as loudly as they do on “Albert Goes West” or snarl with as much bluesy bite as they do on “Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl).” Presumably, that’s because they had never really written songs that fit so well within a traditional garage rock framework. Fortunately, they decided to slum a little and apply their talents to some less sophisticated fare. And that’s why this album is so cool: it’s a Serious Songwriter playing dumb rock ‘n roll. It’s something I’d like to hear more people do (that means you, Phillip Glass! I’m still waiting for that collaboration with the Black Lips! Don’t let me down!), but Dig will suffice for now. It’s certainly interesting the band build up two songs out of percussive grooves rather than their usual bedrocks (four piano chords, a sorrowful poem, and Nick’s shouted instructions: “play like you’re about to commit suicide, you twats!”). The stuttering, moody “Moonland” is awright, but “Night Of The Lotus Eaters,” a monster movie tale creepily intoned over a clanging percussion track that sounds like a well-trained gorilla banging a human skull against a dumpster in the jungle, is cool as hell.

Well, in conclusion, this is just about the only album I can think of that an artist made 30 years into his or her career that ended up being perhaps the most accessible record they’d ever made. Geez… what can’t Nick Cave do? Remember, this is a guy that also wrote two novels and a movie. So if you go to bed at night impressed by your own meager accomplishments in life, make sure you remember one thing before drifting off to sleep: Nick Cave is much, much better than you.



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