Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2008)


Last year's Grinderman was promised to be a rock 'n' roll Nick Cave. And fittingly so. Cave abandoned his name on the marquee, stripped down the Bad Seeds to just a couple other guys, and forged ahead into a noisy, three-chord territory. But the simplicity of rock 'n' roll got muddled with something that seemed like extreme minimalism in comparison to the bombast and gospel choirs on his last effort, Abbatoir Blues & the Lyre of Orpheus. This year's Bad Seeds effort, however, makes up for the half-baked Grinderman.

Fully embracing straight ahead rock 'n' roll with an avant-noise edge layered on top, songs like "Lie Down Here and Be My Girl" and "Albert Goes West" show a strong correlation to dark, fuzzy '80s rock. Cave flirts with soul and gospel arrangments again on "Moonland." "Jesus of the Moon," however, calls up a more nostalgic, piano-driven approach to Cave's writing, focusing on desperate melodies and creating a foundation for Cave's creepy croon forecasting some sort of doom. But the overall tone hits much closer to junkyard rock when you start surveying the album as a whole.

The opener and title track, "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" plays the bass, guitar and organ off of each other on an angular riff while the drums plunk away in steady rhythms behind everything. Cave spouts off a near-spoken word delivery of his lyrics, telling a story of a modern day Lazarus-messiah figure, all the while the instruments fizzing and howling in the background, clanking with auxiliary percussion. The same formula applies to "Today's Lesson" and "We Call Upon the Author," banging out clang after clang of herky jerky rhythms with a more traditional song format than Cave fans are used to. While the arrangements and compositions are spot on, the lasting effect is a batch of sloppy, sleazy rock songs.

"Hold on to Yourself" stands out as an uptempo, soft acoustic ballad, sounding like the soundtrack to a modern day western with its electric guitar solos layering on top of the band building in intensity from a single acoustic guitar. "More News from Nowhere" is a near-eight-minute-long, droning rock song. If I was cooler, and would have written this review earlier, I might have compared it to "Sister Ray" by the Velvet Underground, telling an abstract story about sexual exploits over a droning rock 'n' roll track. But I was beaten to it by prompt and timely reviewers. Still, I think that sums it up the best.

The album is a bit jarring for what most people might have been expecting, but I keep coming back for more. It's got that X factor of replayability. The flaws are few and far between, and although I could giver or take the experimental drone of "Night of the Lotus Eaters," I think this album just might be worth the wait.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!"