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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

March 23, 1997|Sara Scribner

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS

"The Boatman's Call"

Reprise

* * * *

"I don't believe in an interventionist God. . . , " Nick Cave sings on this album's "Into My Arms," "but if I did I would kneel down and ask him / Not to intervene when it came to you." These aren't exactly the kind of lyrics you expect from a man whose last collection, "Murder Ballads," was a difficult concept album about, well, murder. But this inky maestro of blood-chilling alternative blues, an artist obsessed with dark dreams, has never created anything like "The Boatman's Call" before.

An album so raw and intimate it could have been recorded in a confessional, it is all about love: losing it, wanting it, holding it, and--most poignantly--fearing its flight. This could be sappy, but not when every emotion is filtered through the singer's blackened heart and murky mysticism.

At times the songs' characters sound like cranky old men hijacked by Pollyanna. Cradled by Cave's tender piano playing, Conway Savage's jazzy organ work and Mick Harvey's and Blixa Bargeld's subtle, meticulous guitars, "Into My Arms" is a gorgeous meditation on love and faith, and "Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere" rivals Leonard Cohen's best work. Shot through with bliss and pain, Cave strips himself naked to deliver a careful and piercing love letterto the world.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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