"I don't know, this record just seems new, you know, but new in an old school kind of way.
Well, if I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children, then Push The Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator and Warren's loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat." -Nick Cave
At the heart of Push the Sky Away is a naturalism and warmth that makes it the most subtly beautiful of all the Bad Seeds albums. The contemporary settings of myths, and the cultural references that have time-stamped Nick’s songs of the twenty-first century mist lightly through details drawn from the life he observed around his seaside home through the tall windows on the album’s mysterious and ambiguous cover.
This naturalism reveals how Nick’s songs take measure of the world for him, that they’re how he questions and tests his beliefs and impressions. From the very beginning, in the early 1980s, the Bad Seeds’ songs have always done this and reflect his appetite for experimentation and inquisitiveness about whatever changes are taking place in the world, while also deeply appreciating the continuity that the regeneration of ancient myths provides. Joseph Campbell said that it’s artists who move myths into a new context for their own time. This album breaks into new territory with Nick grappling with how context is becoming unmoored in our time.
The songs on this album took form in a modest notebook with shellac covers over the course of almost a year. The notebook is a treasured analogue artefact, but the internet is equally important to Nick: Googling curiosities, being entranced by exotic Wikipedia entries “whether they’re true or not”. These songs convey how on the internet profoundly significant events, momentary fads and mystically-tinged absurdities sit side-by-side and question how we might recognize and assign weight to what’s genuinely important.
This album needs to be experienced whole and in sequence, the way we experience time in our daily lives. The songs collectively express perhaps the most important quality of Nick’s music, the uplifting value of sadness, that it’s only through the contemplation of sadness that we can truly value happiness. The songs glance at the sorrows of our time that come from our newfound awareness of how the innovations of the last few centuries have led to the social and environmental disintegration that surrounds us. But the overall mood is not one of despair; instead there is an atmosphere of quiet, soulful resilience.
Push the Sky Away was produced by Nick Launay and recorded at La Fabrique, a recording studio based in a 19th century mansion in the South of France, where the walls are lined with an immense collection of classical vinyl. The band lived together while making the album and breakfasts were taken under a magnolia tree. The setting reflects that the Bad Seeds, past and present, are a community that Nick is able to call upon at any time. The current Bad Seeds -- Nick, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos, Martyn Casey, Thomas Wydler and Conway Savage -- have been together for almost two decades. The first Bad Seeds bass player, Barry Adamson, steps out of the past to play on two tracks.
"I enter the studio with a handful of ideas, unformed and pupal; it's the Bad Seeds that transform them into things of wonder. Ask anyone who has seen them at work. They are unlike any other band on earth for pure, instinctive inventiveness." -Nick Cave
On this album it’s not always apparent what instruments the band are playing: they may be traditional musical instruments but other sounds are clearly generated by objects unrelated to musical instruments. What’s being created is a collective musical language that’s rich and complex. And through this we understand the central role the Bad Seeds play in Nick’s life, why all of his satellite projects -- novels, film scripts and scores, guest appearances on projects by other musicians, works for the theatre, the phenomenal Grinderman -- lead back to the Bad Seeds.
"The primary importance of all this other stuff is to keep the Bad Seeds alive and strong. I see this as a kind of a duty. And it's true, I go about it with a certain missionary zeal. It's a life’s work. Someone's got to look after them." -Nick Cave
Push the Sky Away has a clarity and sweet strangeness that’s built upon the refusal to accept limitations, whether they be the traditional uses and sounds of musical instruments, lyric styles, or diminished spiritual horizons.