Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus (2004): Review


Produced by Nick Launay
Label – Mute

Ever the musical chameleon, Cave’s career could be summed up by many in clichéd terms that encompass sublime euphoria to ridiculous self reverence. Moth by night, scalded by flames, butterfly by day, dancing through meadows, his muse is always touching extremes in his, and the listener’s emotion. By offering twin titles to this double album, he loosely presents the sonic duality on this, his 13th studio recording. “Abattoir Blues” is essentially a harder guitar driven affair, whilst “The Lyre Of Orpheus” is increasingly contemplative and softer in overall approach. This however doesn’t overplay the mindset that exists in Cave’s messages of the savage and tender, betrayal and virtue, love and hate, all examined in the mind of one of rock music’s most complex thinkers. Nick Launay’s production is as temperamentally supportive as required, allowing a backdrop that schizophrenically fluctuates anywhere between skeletal and fleshed out. Cave as ever, has a vague prophetic air in his vocal delivery and the addition of the London Community Gospel Choir adds spirituality to his wild preaching. Fortunately, the loss of long term cohort Blixa Bargeld doesn’t diminish the depth or colour of the compositions, and although there are moments of inconsequence that inevitably come with a sprawling double album, most of the compilation shines in its deliberate variations and adept performances.


“Abattoir Blues” kicks off with the stomping menace of “Get Ready For Love” which highlights an oft covered theme of Cave’s: obsessive love. The outstanding “There She Goes, My Beautiful World” makes interesting comparisons with artists who create their best works on the precipice of personal implosion. “Nature Boy” is upbeat and self effacing as Cave reflects on his youth, and the heartfelt tribute to Johnny Cash on “Let The Bells Ring” show an open sincerity and deep poignancy for a singer he obviously revered. The consecutive love songs that pillar “The Lyre Of Orpheus” portray a sense of romantic whimsy, with the pastoral “Breathless” and the teasing “Babe, You Turn Me On”, where the complexity of romance and carnal desire are summed up in the line “I put one hand on your round ripe heart, and the other down your panties”. The album closes with the almost spiritual optimism of “O Children” which genuinely benefits from the input of the choir to add the necessary depth.

Double albums frequently test a listener’s commitment and patience. Fortunately, Nick Cave provides a thoroughly entertaining, diversified, yet identifiable batch of songs, and for that reason alone, “Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus” remains a highly recommended collection.


Track Rating
1 – Get Ready For Love – 8
2 – Cannibal’s Hymn – 7
3 – Hiding All Away – 7
4 – Messiah Ward – 8
5 – There She Goes, My Beautiful World – 10
6 – Nature Boy – 9
7 – Abattoir Blues – 7
8 – Let The Bells Ring – 7
9 – Fable Of The Brown Ape – 6
10 – The Lyre Of Orpheus – 6
11 – Breathless – 8
12 – Babe, You Turn Me On – 8
13 – Easy Money – 8
14 – Supernaturally – 7
15 – Spell – 7
16 – Carry Me – 7
17 – O Children – 8

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