From the outset, Push The Sky Away is truly mesmerising. The combination of Cave's deep, resonating, evocative vocals and the oddly compelling, often hypnotic sounds of bass, drums, guitars, big strings, then tiny hushed rhythms, create an album of songs that absorb rather than enthral. It is dark, with edges of light and shade and, while not as minimalist as The Boatman's Call, certainly echoes its feel and mantra. This conception is augmented by some earth-shattering moments - all building to the mighty opus of Jubilee Street. From stark, lazy guitar-led narrative to mournful strings, through a subtle change of pace - Cave matching this startling effect with the line 'The problem was, she had a little black book; and my name was written on every page...' as the story unfolds, moving from third to first person as the music builds to a glorious guitar/violin crescendo. Leading to this moment, Wide Lovely Eyes and Water's Edge set the cold, desolate tone. The former, a listless, wavering love song - keyboards gliding over cut-glass percussion with Cave almost speaking the lyrics, while the latter unfolds like a horror movie, driven by Martyn Casey's bass and Cave's evocative delivery.
At times Push The Sky Away sounds like the songs are fragments of much bigger ideas, yet the unstructured, loose approach is incredibly effective - the listener is dipping in and out of a collective, wandering consciousness. An exception to this rule is structured opener We No Who U R - instantly recognisable with Cave's breathy vocals against the Ellis flute, and delicate backing vocals. This is haunting, creepy and sympathetic in equal measures. In contrast, one of the album's more serene moments, proving that Cave can still deftly amuse, confuse and delight at every turn, Mermaids is a joyous love song. 'I do driver alertness course, I do husband alertness course, I do mermaid alertness course...' is one of the most bizarre, yet perfect, lines he has written. After the magnificently understated We Real Cool and the stupefying Finishing Jubilee Street, Push The Sky Away ends with the near eight-minute Higgs Boson Blues; Cave becoming more bewildered and frenetic - part mad scientist, part sceptic - as the song progresses. Musically, the mood is matched by the rising guitars and lazy percussion. The title track brings the album to a close in majestic style - a late highlight of contrasting vocals, drifting music and thoughtful tone.
In 2013 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have made an album which sounds unlike anything else. Push The Sky Away is unique in its mood and its execution. It is as if the band made a conventional record of complete structured pop songs, the vocal arrangements and guitar/piano marrying predictably, and then replaced the soundtrack with murmuring heartbeats and subtle, yet mesmerising loops - to create an oddly oppressive feel and texture. Push The Sky Away isn't an album that is pitched for commercial success, nor is it solely for fans and purists; it hits the middle ground perfectly as something different, yet familiar, compelling and relevant. At last it sounds like the chaotic and disjointed Grinderman project has proved to be the necessary catharsis for Cave and The Seeds to polish the jagged edges and make way for this uniquely beautiful, dark and captivating genius.