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Live from KCRW

Nick Cave has long held the mantle as the dark poet of the underbelly of rock, and as such any new release is anticipated not just as an event, but as another glimpse into the murky soul of one of the finest lyricists of our age. This live session, a carefully curated balance of dark and light, is Cave’s fourth official live album, featuring a stripped-down Bad Seeds line-up performing four songs from the most recent album, Push the Sky Away, and half a dozen from the back catalogue.

Opening with tentative guitar chords before building into a rumbling contemplation on mass, matter and the birth of love is ‘Higgs Boson Blues’. Citing Hannah Montana doing the African Savannah while invoking the original rock and roll soul-selling legend Robert Johnson shows Cave has not lost his ability for an ambiguous lyric. ‘Far From Me’, the second track taken from The Boatman’s Call, is the most beautifully worded cautionary tale of a former lover since Dylan’s ‘Positively Fourth St’.

A third of the way into the album comes ‘Mercy Seat’. Expecting all the unrepentant ferocity from Cave’s condemned man, it comes as a sublime surprise to see the anger and defiance of the original album version replaced by a plaintive death cell prisoner in what is for me the highlight of this release. While you’re still musing on the regretful memoir of a murderer, the gorgeous trinity of ‘And No More Shall We Part’, ‘Wide Lovely Eyes’ and ‘Mermaids’ follows.

The set closes with ‘Jack The Ripper’, which doesn’t quite seem to sit right. Personally, I would have welcomed ‘Into My Arms’, which is apparently only available if you buy the vinyl version as well – an intensely annoying record label policy that becomes no less annoying the more it’s used as a marketing tool to shift more units.

Inscribed inside Nick Cave - The Complete Song Lyrics 1978-2001 is the biblical quote: “….And I only am escaped to tell thee.” His faith constantly tested by God as the just man in an unjust world, Job has everything he holds dear stripped away from him and survives only to tell his cautionary tale. Or, from the Book of Cave and the aforementioned ‘Far From Me’: “In a world where everybody fucks everybody else over.” Live at KCRW is a collection of cautionary tales told by a just man in an unjust world.