Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Push the Sky Away
(Bad Seed Ltd)
IS THAT the root of sin being banished from Saint Nick's sight? Or is he just opening those shutters to get a better perve at the conundrum? Waving mermaids, child brides, Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus and 72 virgins on a chain crowd his fevered dreams on this muted, haunted return to a skeleton crew of Bad Seeds. ''But you grow old and you grow cold,'' he sighs as he watches the young bucks dismember the trick-turning nymphs in Water's Edge, and ''the chill of love is coming down''.The tone here lies between the beatific agony of The Boatman's Call and the simmer of panic that propelled Nocturama from lynch mob to sick bed, with an atmospheric through-line from The Proposition and other Cave-Warren Ellis soundtracks. Ellis and bassist Marty Casey heave the solid grooves and unleash the rapture that makes Jubilee Street soar, and play like bickering voices in the gentle suicide of Wide Lovely Eyes. But it's through the anguished mutter of Finishing Jubilee Street and the title track that Cave's big book of revelation draws us ever inward.
My Bloody Valentine
HAVING easily seen off Guns N' Roses 22 years to 17 in the gap-between-studio-albums stakes, Irish-English alternative rock icons My Bloody Valentine added a typically frustrating finale to the release of their new album when the website selling it crashed. Like their music, My Bloody Valentine are suspicious of narrative but invoke deep emotion, making for a fascinating comeback on their third record, MBV. The album, which may or may not have been under way since the mid-1990s, picks up where the quartet's sky-breaking 1991 classic, Loveless, leaves off: invalided rhythms, guitars so woozy they suggest agoraphobia, narcotised, lyrical coos. Kevin Shields can get away with repeating himself because no one has worked out how to duplicate his sound, but as the record progresses, new concepts also take shape. There's the comparatively sweet New You, sung by guitarist Bilinda Butcher, and, as a furious finale, the elegantly startling and transporting drum'n'bass-meets-guitar-rock hybrid, Wonder 2. It sounds, typically, like the discovery of a new world.
(E Works/Co-operative Music)
YOU need to say the title out loud in a Grandpa Simpson voice to unpack the black box of Mark ''E'' Everett's world view. His Wonderful, Glorious has a distinctly pugnacious swagger after a 10-album trip through death and despair (see Electro Shock Blues and End Times for the darkest days), so excuse him for taking the upswing with a healthy dose of scepticism. His idea of playful is the two-minute warning of Bombs Away. Even the sweet surge of love is cast as a glitch in the system in Accident Prone: ''I didn't anticipate a pleasant ordeal,'' he croaks. On the Ropes raises a tentative glass half-full to the future but, uh oh, The Turnaround comes straight after. Despite a sustained steel wool texture of treated vocals and scrubby, angular guitar, the joys of rocking out are redemptive enough on Kinda Fuzzy and Stick Together, but you could never accuse E of putting a smiley face on the inevitable undulations of real life. ''You know what? I'm in a good mood today,'' he snarls in New Alphabet. ''I'm so happy it's not yesterday''. Us too, E, us too.
I Am Kloot
Let It All In
IF JOHN Lennon had been Mancunian, less bitter and less soppy, and with hard wisdom built from lack of success rather than guilt from success, he might have sounded like John Bramwell, voice and writer of I Am Kloot. Bramwell sounds world-weary but not worn-down. Not yet. In these elegiac, often quietly captivating songs the tempos are slow, the drum pulse is subdued and the guitars mostly stay in the background for what, with a dab of acoustic folk and cafe jazz, feels more suited to a wine bar than a pub. But as mellow as these songs are, he isn't wholly resigned; he holds on. ''Hold back the night, the streets are filled with laughter/Soon I'll be after you once again/Come to my house and say we're friends.'' Yet there's no finer moment here than the final track, Forgive Me These Reminders, which, as pretty as it is, can't rub away the sadness and could have existed in a smoke-stained French balladeer's pocket in 1963 or with some satin-suited piano player in 1973 or indeed among the Smiths' offerings circa 1983.
Kim Salmon and Spencer P. Jones
DESPITE their common heritage, Kim Salmon and Spencer P. Jones are something of an odd coupling: Salmon, the intense, swamp-laden punk rocker waging a perennial war against the jive; Jones, the laconic troubadour exposing the ravages of his life to the world. After their successful run of shows in 2012 comes an album, Runaways. Of the original songs, A Bitter Projection is reminiscent of Salmon's recordings with the Business in the late 1990s, while Jones' The Monkey Has Gone is transformed into a dirty instrumental torch song. The suitably reverent covers of Chester Burnett's I Asked For Water, the Stooges' I Need Somebody, the Gun Club's Jack On Fire and Alex Chilton's Underclass place Salmon and Jones' musical evolution within a historical context; the versions of Kanye West's Run Away and Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is? paint a vivid picture of lives given to rock'n'roll - ego, dishevelment, transvestites and all. These guys are genuine survivors, with plenty of class.
Studio One Ironsides
THE vaults, shelves and back rooms of Coxone Dodd's Studio One in Kingston, Jamaica, are in many ways the gift that keeps giving. This latest from that stable, focusing on releases from side labels of Studio One in the early '70s, doesn't quite have the blow-me-away elements dedicated followers loved in its predecessors but it doesn't lack for pleasures. The music is drawn from a mixed bag, ranging from proto-dub to rocksteady, dancehall and sweet soul done in the Jamaican manner as well as an accommodating style of reggae. Marcia Griffiths, as ever, has a winning lilt over the easy lope of Mark My Word and she's matched in the charm stakes by the rather sweet Soul Sisters with Another Night and also a couple of tracks from Freddie McGregor, particularly the groove-driven Come Now Sister. There's a tougher edge to Don Evans and the Paragons' Danger in Your Eyes - its rhythm pushier, its brass sharper - and some production adventure in the spacious and almost vibrating Bongo Red by the Gladiators.