Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus
Nick Cave has never shied away from swinging for the fences, but even by his standards, this sprawling double-disc set is remarkably rife with both chancy moves and grand gestures. At first listen, Abattoir Blues and The Lyre of Orpheus would seem to be virtual polar opposites: The former is lashed with fierce guitar work and wildly wailing choral vocals, while the latter is more meditative and rooted in traditional folk-blues. But a scratch of the surface reveals the same sort of spirit -- alternately darkly humorous and existentially yearning -- running through the veins of both. Cave has never sounded as optimistic as he does here, preaching the gospel of true romance on the roiling "Get Ready for Love" and venturing back to his own childhood for the surprisingly open neo-bubblegum ditty "Nature Boy." Many of the songs here rank among Cave's most unguarded, and that soul baring reveals just as many regular-Joe moments -- like the come-hither honky-tonk croon "Babe, You Turn Me On" -- as dark night of the soul forays, such as the murder ballad, "O Children," that wraps up The Lyre of Orpheus. Perhaps most important, Cave keeps his rapier wit unsheathed for the duration, which allows him to reference both St. John of the Cross and Johnny Thunders in the environmentalist hymn "There She Goes, My Beautiful World." The darkness that's usually so prevalent on Cave's discs isn't entirely absent, but more than ever, it sounds as though he's reaching out of it, rather than trying to pull listeners into it.