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Nick Cave - ''No More Shall We Part''
(Monday April 2, 2001 11:41 AM )

Released on 02/04/2001
Label: Mute

It feels almost like a betrayal, and is, at very least, a shock akin to discovering the Teletubbies are on crack : Nick Cave, the thornily-crowned prince of heroin-bleak, underworld-dark musings, the post-punk erstwhile drug addict with a creativity almost as unchained as the violence on which he dwells, the poet of the desperate and the damned, the Vaudevillian purveyor of theological narrative - is, at 43, happily married with new twins, completely junk free and writing songs every day from nine to five at the office.

But, as demonstrated by reformed, gym-loving Iggy Pop - and by newly made father Cave himself on his 'Henry's Dream' album - a bit of stability and contentment doesn't have to make you write like a greeting card.

As the title (his first clearly positive one), suggests, a vein of romantic resolution, with its concomitant awareness of problems only just passed, runs through this, with, appropriately, a diminution of manic fervour and a favouring of low key musical composition.

Yet Cave thrives in disquiet: unable to charge the likes of the soulful, mantra-esque 'Sweetheart Come', with impending apocalypse, he instead looks back to recent pains ("The dogs they fed you to/Lay their muzzles in your lap"). But a complacency, or maybe just an openness, poisons 'Love Letter' - while a beautiful plea for a return of affection, there's a hollowness to it, its unmitigated declaration weak and almost embarrassing (not helped by an overly light piano and strings arrangement). More powerful is he when afraid of losing love, or when caught between redemption and reluctance, as on the title track, when "the ring is locked upon the finger" and his broodily-sung lists of what it will "no longer be necessary" to do ("say.../I am alone and she has left me"), sound like regret.

But what makes 'No More...' Cave's best album since 'Henry's Dream' (which it most clearly resembles), is a return to melodrama (or rather the juxtaposition of melodrama with the album's ballads) where Cave crafts a deliciously potent mix of the visionary, the bizarre and the everyday (the narrator of 'Oh My Lord' goes to the hairdressers, seeing there "a guy wearing plastic antlers/Pressing his bum against the glass"). Here the understated is drowned by his multi-layered mini-epics of thunderous piano and haunting vocals seeming to foretell impending doom, his voice a twisted croon as the nights grow ever darker and "a sword of Damocles" appears in the air.

No matter that there's more restraint, less lyrical and musical fire and brimstone and more "kittens" than in the early Nineties' dramas - it's the battle with a breakdown of order that is the most compelling; when, such as during the epiphanic 'Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow', abandonment lets rip and is dumbed down, only for it finally to tear past in apocalyptic waves.

If you happen to see Nick stumbling out of a West London office at ten past five one day, calm your fears: there's still a place for a tortured soul, even at the gates to the garden of Eden.

    by Alix Buscovic

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