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Nick Cave and Saudade

Tom Sturch

1b nick cave Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' latest album is “Push The Sky Away.”  NME says “it ventures into natural catastrophe, scientific discovery, and ravaging tides.”  Spin celebrates Cave's offerings of “detached eroticism, prophecy, salvation, the grotesque, the uncanny, and the folly of man.” All in a day's work for Cave. Thirty years and 15 studio albums in, his desire for gothic storytelling hasn't waned. Admittedly driven there Cave suggests the thing he feels is not unusual. “We all experience within us what the Portugese call saudade (sow-DAH-jay), which translates as an inexplicable sense of longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul...” Siren-like, cut five “Mermaids” is exemplary:

And I'll sit around and watch The mermaids hung themselves Out on the rocks Out beyond our touch I watch and watch And they wave at me, wave at me They wave and slip back into the sea Mermaids / Push The Sky Away

There is depth and timelessness in “Push” that both envelops and transcends his former work. You'd expect the songs to have been written on the Brighton shore, but each day Cave leaves home and goes into a small office he keeps furnished with a desk, a piano and as he calls it, “a psychiatrist's couch.” With no computer and no outside distractions the pursuit of saudade is a ritual. He writes in a notebook, page after page, sorting through uninspired reams going further and further to find a spark or two he and his band can flesh out into song. The title track is descriptive:

And if you're feeling You've got everything you came for If you got everything And you don't want no more You've got to just Keep on pushing Keep on pushing Push the sky away Title Track / Push The Sky Away

To be on adventure is in our DNA. We're drawn by something out there. And what about adventuring in? What about exploring the frontiers of the soul? In Nick Cave we have a patron saint. His music maps a place beyond the apparent where something more real and creative exists. A place for which we long and in visiting may discover new ways of being and working. In “Push The Sky Away” Cave has captured the call of saudade, the call to all of us to go deep. Is that true of all the best art? Should it be?