Around, oh, the 11th or 12th repetition of the bludgeoning chorus "Babe I'm on fire" on the track of the same name, it hits you: Nick Cave has jumped the shark.
For a Cave devotee, this is a sorry and painful thing to report, but true nevertheless. Oh, Nocturama has its moments, mostly brought about by Warren Ellis's mournful violin and fleeting glimpses of the spitfire literacy only Cave can pull off. The album even claims one outstanding tune, in the form of opener "Wonderful Life," which finds Cave's glowering style in top form.
That said, this is an album that's out of ideas, covering emotional and musical territory Cave has covered with more conviction on previous efforts. The slow tracks seem stolid, and even the would-be romper-stompers, employing all the awesome muscle of Cave's Bad Seeds co-conspirators, are curiously docile. Nocturama isn't a terrible album -- that would be all but impossible from this bunch -- but for the most part, it's disappointingly stale.