Tales of murder and death, sometimes hilarious though often heartbreaking... regardless of how far he goes with his lyrical content, Cave’s genius has always been in creating and sustaining a mood that the listener can totally lose themselves in.
Here the underlining concern is in the creation of a bleak and suffocating atmosphere, only occasionally broken by Cave’s amazingly dark wit and always-colourful use of language. The form is taken straight from the tradition of the English ballad, with confessional structures, biblical imagery, lurid subject matter and larger than life caricatures all jostling for our attention. It works because Cave doesn’t take it too seriously. Songs like Stagger Lee, The Curse of Millhaven and the epic O’Malley’s Bar seem to take their cue from cabaret, or at their most, musical theatre. It lightens the mood, making the more suffocating moments like Song for Joy - a shocking parable about a young doctor robbed of his family - less soul destroying. The two contrasting elements create a nice blend that takes the listener on an intimate journey into the deepest, darkest depths of despair.
As always, Cave is complimented by his wonderful Bad Seeds, who are here on fine form. The arrangements are atmospherically complex, though never what you would call cluttered; whilst an assortment of varied guest stars (such as PJ Harvey, Kylie Minogue and Shane MacGowan) add to the frenzied, 'don’t give a f-ck' spirit of the album. Cave has done better work than this... but never before, and most likely never again, will we ever see his appetite for horror, bloodshed and death in such an unashamed, and certainly uncensored approach as this. What else is there to say...?