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Yeats once wrote that “only two topics can be of the least interest to a serious and studious mood—sex and the dead.” Nick Cave, Australia’s ambassador of end-times rock ’n’ roll, shares that sentiment. On his first album in four years with the Bad Seeds, the carnal and cadaverous Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, he ditches the script of the piano-heavy Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus and embraces the sound of his recent side project Grinderman—itself driven by primitive electric guitars that recalled his ’80s post-punk act the Birthday Party. Though axes are prominent, Cave has set aside the guitar he picked up for Grinderman, mostly playing organ and leaving the six-string duties to violinist Warren Ellis. The overall sound is sparse and sullen, and though the band recorded quickly to capture a Doors-meets-Bauhaus vibe, Cave reportedly agonized over the lyrics, which paint grim pictures of the waking dead: drug addicts, sexual obsessives, and other pitiful creatures of dependency and desire. The opening title track is a typically gritty paean to junkie hustlers and wayward bohemians: Its central character, Larry, has been resurrected against his will and stumbles disinterestedly through scenes of sex, stardom, and, finally, despondency. “He ended up like so many of them do, back in the streets of New York City,” Cave sings, sardonically. “In a soup queue, a dope fiend, a slave, then prison, then the madhouse then the grave…aw, poor Larry.” (Cave, who’s written a novel, may have been inspired by Lazarus, a proto-zombie novella by 19th-century Russian author Leonid Andreyev—in both cases, characters are cursed by their reanimation, drifting through a world they recognize but can’t be a part of.) The album’s centerpiece, “We Call Upon the Author,” is partly a petition to God to account for “rampant discrimination, mass poverty, third world debt, infectious disease,” and more. “It does in your brain,” Cave sermonizes as the band scuttles and thrums behind him. “Today’s Lesson” describes a young girl’s realization of her sexual power over men. As organs pump and guitars hiss, Cave tells us the story of Janie, who cheerfully reduces sex to depraved biological impulse: “Janie says we are all such a crush of want, half-mad with lust/We are violated in our sleep, and we weep, and we toss/And we turn, and we burn, yeah we are hypnotized, we are cross-eyed, we are pimped, we are bitched…Janie wakes up and she says, ‘We’re gonna have a real good time tonight.’” Who’s gonna argue? The most visceral Nick Cave record in recent memory, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! dances on graves with lusty abandon. Nihilists, necromantics, misanthropes, and other degenerates: Your order is up. —Casey Rae-Hunter