The reverence bestowed upon each subsequent Nick Cave album by the Critics unfortunately means that when a genuinely refreshing and exciting breakthrough occurs in what is already an extraordinary and incredible career, it too easily slips through the net. 'Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus' is such an epiphany. Cave rates this record as one of, if not the best of his career, and for very good reason. It simply oozes beauty. Where previous Cave albums have been predominately dark and foreboding in mood, this album pulses with life and hope. Aided by the London Community Gospel Choir and the ever inventive Bad Seeds, Cave's music soars, brimming with wit and passion and romance. Like all great art it makes you feel differently about the world; it reassures and challenges in equal measure.
From the head rush of the opener 'Get Ready For Love' to the celestial tranquillity of 'O Children', this is a mature record in the best sense of that overused phrase. Cave has finally found the perfect balance between songwriter and band leader, the Bad Seeds proving themselves one of the most exciting and dynamic groups in the business.
As a long time fan of Cave I have enjoyed most of his work. Yet, in recent years there have been reservations. There was conviction missing from 'The Boatman's Call'. 'No More Shall We Part', despite moments of greatness was just a little too long-winded at times. And after 'Nocturama' I feared his muse had completely bolted. However, my fears have been allayed. This is the most significant music Nick Cave has delivered since he wrote 'The Mercy Seat' almost 20 years ago. A double album of such beauty and majesty it demands comparison with the great man's own heroes - Leonard Cohen, Scott Walker, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Nina Simone and the late Johnny Cash.
Nick Cave is damn right to suspect that this really is his masterpiece. It is nothing less than that.