Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds/
[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]
RELEASING their first album in four years, New Order may feel like householders come home to find the drinks cabinet plundered, the sofa in the bath, and local youths passed out in the herbaceous border.
No other band has exerted such an influence on today's indie scene. But then, no other band has steered so close, so often, to perfection. Their catalogue up until 1993's Republic radiates a modernist mystique now vainly clutched at by hordes of imitators. Republic announced itself with the shimmering and chiming Regret, perhaps the last great New Order track, then gently descended to the plateau they've glid along ever since.
Waiting For The Sirens' Call (London, ***) may not be perfect, but it's certainly flawless. I've heard it half-a-dozen times already, and could happily continue doing so indefinitely, but can remember nothing about it once it's over. Its hard, smooth surface offers no purchase for memory to gain a toehold. Once New Order's music took possession of any room it played in. Now it's purely - albeit beautifully - decorative.
With most acts, a bits-and-bobs round-up is of value only to obsessive completists. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are not most acts. The three-disc B-Sides & Rarities (Mute, ****) is thorough, and contains its share of doodles, jams and drunken rambles. But it also offers enough alpha material to establish the reputations of Cave and his remarkable band entirely on its own, if it needed to.
Highlights include an acoustic The Mercy Seat to rival Johnny Cash's stripped-down reading; Cave's whimsical duets with Shane MacGowan; several lovely reinterpretations of folk airs; meditative addenda to the much cherished The Boatman's Call; and best of all, a breathtaking 18-minute revamp of the splendid, gruesome and morbidly droll murder ballad, O'Malley's Bar.
The first album from Missy Elliot protegée Tweet, Southern Hummingbird, was frustratingly patchy. Her second, It's Me Again (Atlantic, **), is frustratingly even. It's consistently listenable, but never approaches Hummingbird's slinky Oops (Oh My), the finest tribute to female self-love since The Divinyls' I Touch Myself.
Tweet has staked out her own territory somewhere between R&B raunch and syrupy soul. If she were just a little more daring - artistically, rather then in terms of innuendo - she might produce a really good LP. But not yet.
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