With the Birthday Party, the band he fronted in the late '70s and early '80s, Nick Cave was a punk provocateur who kicked against the pricks, screaming as much he sang. That he would go on to develop an addiction to heroin, star in several underground movies, and publish his prose and poetry only added to his cult status. His legacy was further solidified with the Bad Seeds, a band that he started after the Birthday Party disbanded in 1983. With the Bad Seeds, Cave wasn't so much invested in punk shock tactics as he was in creating music that stood up to the work of auteurs such as Leonard Cohen, Scott Walker, and Tom Waits. So much so that his last studio effort with the Bad Seeds, 1997's The Boatman's Call, represented the culmination of Cave's transformation from misfit to artiste. With No More Shall We Part, he continues to seethe with a quiet rage that's very reminiscent of the somber tales on The Boatman's Call.
Having recently curated a London festival called "Meltdown," toured as a spoken-word performer, and worked with Hal Wilner in a tribute to folk archivist Harry Smith, Cave shows some signs of wear and tear here. His baritone isn't as deep and evocative as it's been in the past, and the sparse melodies, constructed mostly of strings and piano, have become so minimalist that they nearly evaporate. There are moments that succeed in effecting the gothic intensity for which Cave is known. "Hallelujah," a song that's hardly the celebratory anthem its title might imply, and "Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow," a claustrophobic and haunted narrative about becoming paralyzed, allow Cave to kick things into high gear (relatively speaking) as he channels emotions so dark and sinister, you wonder how he manages to get out of bed in the morning. Songs such as "The Sorrowful Wife" and "Oh My Lord" also start slow, but finish in fits of fury. But dour ballads such as "Sweetheart Come" and "As I Sat Sadly by Her Side" are simply too dreary and plain, even by Cave's standards.