Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!

Music ••• Sound ••••

At this point in Nick Cave's nearly 30-year career, there isn't any unclaimed territory for him to visit. It's now a matter of shifting energy and focus.

Last year's Grinderman project reawoke Cave's primal side, so he's playing more aggressive organ and singing with greater authority and anger than on the past few Bad Seeds releases, where he'd just as likely settle into a swooning ballad. Right from the opening title track, Cave is down on the street in his best Iggy Pop swagger, following "Larry" from New York City to San Francisco and L.A. and eventually back to New York, where his fame ends and he's down and out. The Bad Seeds drive the scenery with a tough garage-rock workout, highlighted by Mick Harvey's raw guitar and Cave's dense, demanding organ chords.

As a lyricist, Cave hears words as percussive poetry and gives himself over to repetitive ramblings that reflect interior monologues from unreliable narrators. This adds great friction when the music connects. "We Call Upon the Author" stalks a courtroom floor with its mad, methodical pacing, while "Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl)" uses a mocking pop-chorus call-and-response to balance Cave's wild ravings. And in the 8-minute, set-closing "More News from Nowhere," a succinct guitar hook centers his Homeric narrative and provides the album with its one sultry and seductive groove.

Sometimes, however, the songs fall short. "Night of the Lotus Eaters" grinds too monotonously, building from Warren Ellis's loop with little more than mood to sustain it. "Hold On to Yourself" never rises above a few notes reminiscent of previous Bad Seeds terrain. Then again, after 13 previous Bad Seeds albums, there's bound to be overlap and repetition. And overall, Cave finds enough new energy here - as in the youthful vigor of "Albert Goes West" - to justify the continued mission into his heart of darkness.