Over calming, elongated strings and a gentle piano melody, Nick Cave pensively ponders: “There are some people trying to find out who/There are some people trying to find out why/And some people aren’t trying to find anything/But that kingdom in the sky.”
Enter descending twister noise. Cave repeats, “In the skyyy,” as if slipping from our grasp and disappearing down a black hole. So magnificently visual! After listening to just this opener, you’ll probably need to press pause and collect yourself before continuing.
Cave’s more recent output with The Bad Seeds (Push The Sky Away, Ghosteen) closely resembles his film score work with Ellis (The Proposition, The Road, West Of Memphis...), and Carnage’s amorphous song structures and illustrative orchestration demonstrate glorious technicolour in full flight.
In his Red Hand Files, Cave revealed of Carnage’s genesis: “The main reason Warren and I went into the studio was not to make a record. I think, more than anything, we just wanted to spend some time together.” During a couple of days spent making sweet music together “in a kind of fogged fury”, Carnage spewed forth. Then Ellis texted the following to Cave a couple of days later (probably using an old Nokia): “Have you listened to this stuff? I’ll send you the hits. Prepare to be amazed.”
“I’m a Botticelli Venus with a penis/ Riding an enormous scalloped fan…” – can you imagine any other singer on the planet dreaming up those lyrics? Throughout, Cave’s menacing growl conjures voodoo magic; often his macabre, poetic delivery is the stuff of toddler nightmares. Ask Uncle Nick to tell your kiddies a bedtime story at your own peril (“I’ll shoot you all for free if you so much as look at me”).
The lumbering pace of White Elephant serves social commentary: “A protestor kneels on the neck of a statue/ The statue says, ‘I can’t breathe’/ The protester says, ‘Now you know how it feels’/ And he kicks it into the sea…” By the time this standout track’s The Flaming Lips-level celebratory chorus kicks in – “A time is coming/ A time is nigh/ For the kingdom/ In the sky…” (a recurring motif) – it sounds as jubilant as a carousel horse galloping to freedom. All together now: “Hand of God! Hand of God! Hand of God! Hand of God!”
Carnage by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is out now on vinyl and CD via Goliath Enterprises/AWAL.
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