Despite a namecheck for Lazarus in the album title, don’t call this a comeback. Everyone’s favourite black-haired, waggly armed harbinger of the gothic psycho-sexual apocalypse has not only been here for years, but in the last few leading up to his half-century (he was 50 in September), Nick Cave’s been killing it harder than ever. The Satanic majesty of last year’s stripped-down Grinderman project has spilled over on to this 14th Bad Seeds album. Cave sings every line like a Batman villain, with a blend of high camp, wit and genuine menace. “I don’t know what it is but there’s definitely something going on upstairs!” he leers on the title track, eyebrow arched so highly you can be sure that he’s not talking about a loft conversion. He’s swept along on a funky groove, with backing chants, Hammond swirls and Warren Ellis’ violin, conditioned – as it is throughout the album – to sound like the ominous creaking of a rusty medieval torture device.‘Night Of The Lotus Eaters’ is based on a grimy two-note tape loop. While ‘Midnight Man’ is propelled by snaking synth and sitar lines.
Meanwhile, ‘Moonland’ makes impressive use of the tabla. Just when The Bad Seeds seemed content to settle into middle-age as a cabaret gospel showband – albeit an extraordinary one – they’ve bared their teeth again.
Several tracks still rely too heavily on Cave’s familiar ranting preacher routine and maybe only two or three would muscle their way into a greatest hits set. However, let’s put that into perspective. Also turning 50 this year are Prince, Madonna, Paul Weller, Shane MacGowan, Ice-T and Michael Jackson. Even if they got together to form a freakish supergroup, they’d struggle to make an album containing as much vitality, humour and invention as Cave and his wizened cronies have.