These are the first words you hear from Nick Cave on Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!. What a way to start a Bad Seeds album! You can always get a feel for what’s up and coming on a Cave record by the first song. Abattoir Blues and The Lyre of Orpheus shot out with an uproarious gospel-like anthem “Get Ready for Love.” Nocturama and No More Shall We Part each led off with melancholy piano based numbers. Dig welcomes us with the hilarious and wickedly cool resurrection tale of Lazarus.
Mi amigos, you are in for a special treat. Nick Cave trades in his mad man preacher vibe for ringleader of the elegant ruffians better known to you as the Bad Seeds. He’s a post-modern lyrical gunslinger in a corporate gangster world. Instead of committing acts of indiscretions, Cave and his band of Bad Seeds create an atmosphere of mayhem and beauty likes of which has yet to be equaled in this modern music age.
Think about it, there is no band or artist that can match Cave’s lyrical genius and the rhythmic intensity of the Bad Seeds. They are, bar none, the most dynamic band of our generation. And the sad thing is that the majority of the mainstream is clueless to their boisterous brilliance. Unfortunately, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! will not make anyone new converts to the Nick Cave camp, though this is not necessarily a bad thing. For the vintage Cave fans, Dig is the next step in a sonic journey that began in the seeds of a side project that bred the infamous foursome known as the Grinderman.
I like to think that Grinderman’s roots came out of Cave’s foray into screenwriting, which yielded the very explosive screenplay for the Australian bloodbath of a western called The Proposition. That movie told about the horrific crimes committed by the Burns brothers’ gang. The remnants and themes of this storytelling made their way into the Grinderman project. The album is a testosterone-injected rock epic that bleeds the passionate fire inside of every starving soul that is a Grinderman.
In fact, you can hear the spirit of the Grinderman injected into Dig. Gone are the piano-based and violin-tinged love songs of Bad Seeds yore. This is a more of a plugged in, cranked up, adrenaline surging direction for Cave. His voice has grown more confident and animated. He seems like a looser lad who sounds like he’s having a blast while singing on Dig. Listen as he slithers from line to line, I love the way he sings “Dog eat dog world” and “San Francisco Girl” on the title track. He sounds like a poetic pimp letting his beard down to funk it up with his boys The Bad Seeds.
Nick Cave’s electric organ takes center stage on “Today’s Lesson” as he sings “We’re gonna have a real cool time, whoo!” You can feel Cave shaking and dancing while he sings these jagged lyrics. Especially when he sings “we are hypnotized, we are cross-eyed, we are pimped, we are bitched, we are told such monstrous lies…” I found myself laughing and fist pumping my yelps of approval throughout every adventure of Dig.
Cave and The Seeds put on a Doors-like pose on the very strange yet twisted and modern psychedelic funk twitches of “Moonland.” I love the way Cave almost whispers “I’m not your favorite lover.” We can relate to this outsider trying to find his shadow in this confused netherworld. Dig seems to consist of adventures of lost souls that are out of place in modern society. We have Lazarus from the lead track and then lonely lover of “Moonland.” I can’t forget the frightened wanderer of the very creepy “Night of the Lotus Eaters.” With lyrics like “The dragons roam shopping malls/ I hear they’re gonna eat our guts” and the electric loops and guitar wails, “Night of the Lotus Eaters” is a perfect fit for George Romero’s Dead franchise.
Let’s not forget Albert, of the guitar axe rocker “Albert Goes West,” who is a traveler who has also lost his way. Cave’s narrator is trying to find himself on the road in a world of “endless abstractions.” A few songs later Cave tries to seduce a lover who longs for another as he croons, in the fast paced, “Lie Down Here (& Be my Girl).” And even in “Jesus and The Moon” as he sings “will it be me or will it be you? One must stay and one must depart,” you can hear the narrator trying to find himself in a place and in love. Cave’s characters are reflections of the man who is, despite his artistic greatness, at times an exile from mainstream culture.
One of my favorite songs on Dig is “We Call on the Author to Explain,” a very noisy and riff layered anthem in which Cave takes on the role of fan and critic asking his favorite author to explain the meaning behind his words. It’s a very ironic number that has Cave spewing out some of his most explosive lyrics like “It’s fucked up/ he’s a fucker, but what an enormous and encyclopedic brain.” The thing that Cave masters on Dig is the perfect merger of the lifted lines of classic mythology with the lyrical slang of every day life.
Listen for the western influenced “Hold on to Yourself.” I love the noisy sound effects in the background, something you will find on most of the songs along with the cool Manzerek reminiscent organ layered throughout. Continuing with the theme of outcast, “Hold on to Yourself” is a calling to all of those outsiders to not lose their individualistic spark in what Cave calls this “life and fire and lunacy.”
Beginning with “I walk into the corner of my room and see my friends in high places,” “More News from Nowhere” begins a sonic tale of Nick Cave naming all of these strange flames like Janet, Betty, Miss Polly, Alina and Deanna. The obvious link could be that these are all ex-lovers of Cave but I like to think that these women were all sources of inspiration for many of Cave’s songs. It’s an amazing concept having all of these spirits and songstress’ appearing and haunt him in this bluesy number. This is what I admire about Nick Cave. He’ll take just about any incident from his life, dreams or nightmares and create a song out of it. He’s fearless artist who somehow seemingly has no trouble sharing his deepest desires with the confines of a classic song.
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is another explosive entry into the very extraordinary Nick Cave musical canon. Are you ready to be shocked, rocked and reenergized by this new electric incarnation of The Bad Seeds? Just plug in and let yourself go deeper inside the universe of chaos and disorder that no one other than Nick Cave can bring to life. He’s a lyrical seer who’s tuned into the unimaginable beauty and horror of it all, and so much more.
Video: “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!