Album: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus, MUTE

When is a double album not a double album? The not entirely persuasive answer is, apparently, when it's two separate albums that are only available for purchase together. Well, that's cleared that up. Taken together, though, Abattoir Blues/ The Lyre of Orpheus may be Nick Cave's best work, in which his liberal use of gospel choir and the apocalyptic tone of songs such as "Get Ready For Love", "Hiding All Away" and "Abattoir Blues" are balanced on the second disc by the salvatory power of love in "Carry Me", the elegiac, anthemic closer "O Children", and "Babe You Turn Me On". On the latter, the delicate interplay of piano and guitar colours Cave's desire to escape a time when: "Everything is collapsing, dear/ All moral sense has gone/ It's just history repeating itself". Not that it's entirely mired in last-days religious fervour: the epic gospel-rock sweep of "There She Goes, My Beautiful World" finds a blocked Cave contemplating the methods other artists employ to trigger inspiration. Compared to the meagre offerings of most contemporary songwriters, this is a 10-course banquet: Cave's fund of classical, poetic and religious reference is fully stocked, and the Bad Seeds haven't played with quite this fire for many an album.