There is no one like Nick Cave – or Warren Ellis. Cave has been making modern auteur music since the late seventies, and since the mid-nineties he’s been doing it with Ellis, from the strings of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds to the blues-rock of Grinderman, not to mention acclaimed film soundtrack work. Yet other than those soundtracks, the made-during-COVID surprise-released CARNAGE is their first official work together as duo, embracing Cave’s emotional highlights.
Like when Trent Reznor and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross ended Nine Inch Nails only to found the very similar How To Destroy Angels (which soon ended & NIN was revived), “Nick Cave & Warren Ellis” sounds very much like prior Cave paintings, in the very much right way. Cave’s tragic baritone storytelling is employed deftly, from the pressing, ominous epic opener “Hand of God” to the sad song & dance man strings of closer “Balcony Man”. “Old Time” is driving, dark, almost free jazz, while “White Elephant” has Cave’s classic avant-ramble that makes perfect emotional sense. And this time, there’s no fourteen-minute Cave magnum opuses.
Being made during lockdown and dropping unannounced, one could easily think that CARNAGE is a COVID project, something that wouldn’t have been made without the current crisis, and could be put to the side once things are back to normal (whenever/whatever that will be). Billing it as “Nick Cave and Warren Ellis” could even heighten those suspicions, not a ‘true’ Cave record. But CARNAGE is another masterful work by two amazing musicians.