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The Boatman's Call by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

 

 

 

After a career spent tearing down the world with horror and disgust, Nick Cave finally sounds ready to start rebuilding from scratch. He's begun to find a quiet grace, and perhaps even beauty, past all the darkness that's long consumed him. Amid the ashes of a world unable to exorcise its demons, Cave actually finds love; a strange, twisted, doomed love, perhaps--but love nevertheless.

On The Boatman's Call, Cave's latest collection, the singer-songwriter finds room for the personal, the spiritual, and even the hopeful in his grey psyche. With only the sparest accompaniment--often just a piano or organ, light percussion, and violin (care of Dirty Three's Warren Ellis)--Cave employs traditional folk song structure and simplicity to weave tales saddened less through tragedy as through emptiness. Songs like "Into My Arms" and "(Are You) The One That I've Been Waiting For?" are among Cave's most self-assured and soulful to date. Stripped down and grown up--though still ghoulish and grave--Cave the storyteller has turned into something of a vampire Springsteen.

Ultimately, The Boatman's Call sounds like Cave's attempt to poison his cake and eat it too. For a record so resolute in its denial of divinity, The Boatman's Call's obsession with religious themes and imagery might seem contradictory if they hadn't come from someone like Cave, who fancies himself a fallen angel searching for a ladder back to heaven. Where Gothic meets cathedral, there resides, for better or worse, our dark saint Nick.

- Roni Sarig