NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! [Anti-]

For a master of the tongue-in-cheek, the bright marquee lights gracing Nick Cave’s 14th studio album seem like a heartfelt greeting. It’s been 25 years since the morose Australian first assembled his Bad Seeds and four since their last LP, with Cave having dabbled in writing movies (The Proposition), film soundtracks (The Assassination Of Jesse James) and Snoop Dogg-approved blues rock (Grinderman) in between. Cave, now 50, commands the Bad Seeds’ classic obtuse fascinations (God, death, decadence) like a ringmaster. As such, the playful Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! stands among his most mature albums. God plays an important role on “We Call Upon The Author,” as Cave asks Him to explain “mass poverty, Third World debt, infectious disease” and other maladies (amid calling Charles Bukowski a jerk and punnily praising suicidal poet John Berryman for doing things “the Heming-way”). On “Jesus Of The Moon,” Cave addresses mortality: “I’m more afraid of things staying the same.” He casts the Biblical Lazarus as an ungrateful teenager on the title track, opining, “He never asked to be raised up from the tomb.” But Dig!!! is by no means mopey, quoting Iggy Pop on “Today’s Lesson” and unleashing catchy hooks on the chorus to “Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl).” Cave’s only sign of decadence is his solipsism, and that’s still why he’s likeable. []

—Kory Grow