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No More Shall We Part
Artist: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Label: Reprise Records
Length: 12 tracks/67:46

 On his latest album Nick Cave sounds older, more mature, and almost restrained. True, his ballads have always dealt with
 more serious subject matter, often incorporating religion, as well as death and loss, but this album is different in that his
 delivery seems almost subdued compared to the rest of his cannon. The ballads are as strong as ever, however, and this
 new album will not disappoint.

 The Australian born Cave has never received much commercial success in the United States. An ill-conceived tour with
 Lollapalooza in 1994 failed to bring about much stateside acclaim. His most familiar piece of work to the North American
 audience is probably the song "Red Right Hand," which has been featured in the X-Files, Scream, and Dumb & Dumber.
 Cave has enjoyed more success in Australia and Europe, yet success, at least commercially, has never been a driving force
 for Nick. He has battled larger demons than PR reps over the years and continues to produce insightful and meaningful work.

 "No More Shall We Part" ushers Nick Cave into the new Millennium with his strongest release since the 1996 Murder
 Ballads album, which was horribly misunderstood by many audiences. The album begins with a strong opener, "As I Sat
 Sadly By Her Side," drawing the listener's attention as it paints a picture of two characters staring out a window while
 pondering life and its meaning. The song climaxes lyrically with:

Then she drew the curtains down 
And said, 'Oh, when will you ever learn 
That what happens there beyond the glass 
Is simply none of your concern? 
God has given you but one heart 
You are not a home for the hearts of your brothers 
And God don't care for your benevolence 
Anymore than He cares for the lack of it in others 
Nor does He cares for you to sit 
At windows in judgment of the world 
He created While sorrows pile up around you 
Ugly, useless and over-inflated.

The strength of the first song is not a fluke. The album continues to amaze lyrically with its simple poignancy and  straightforward delivery. "Hallelujah" recalls the parable of the prodigal son, this time returning to his nurse with "her hot  cocoa and her medication." "Love Letter" is the story of a love letter, a simple but powerful ballad that balances  sentimentality with the sometimes all-too-bleak reality of romance gone sour. Another outstanding track, "God is in the House,"   is a subtle yet powerful and scathing look at the formulas people employ to find God, peace or perfection.

Every song on this album has something to say, and the whole disc is well worth a few listens just to catch all the twists and  turns. On "No More Shall We Part" Nick Cave demonstrates his mastery of lyric composition. Throughout the years he has  struggled to write more simply yet deeply. Here he shows he can write simply and yet captures more depth than most pop  artists will ever achieve in their entire careers. And he does it well, very well.

Musically, Nick Cave's backing band, The Bad Seeds, is a solid supporting group. The listener doesn't get the sense that  anyone here is trying to steal the show with a rollicking guitar riff or over-powering drum track. This band fills in all the pieces  exactly where they should go to provide a rich sound, yet similar to Cave's lyrics -- simple. There are no rockers on this album,   and nothing here requires a prodigy to play, but the songs all have a texture that could not have just been thrown together.  These Seeds may be Bad, but they work hard to sound good.

Make no mistake, this album is not entertainment, although the listener may certainly be entertained. No More Shall We  Part is a work of art. As far as works of art go, it's certainly not the best, but it is good. This project is not for everyone, since  it does not rock musically. But for those who enjoy thoughtful and insightful lyrics accompanied by simple, yet lush melodies,  swing by your local music store and pick up this album. If they don't have it in stock, have them order it. You will not be  disappointed.

Darryl A. Armstrong               June 16, 2001

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