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*** 1/2NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS"Henry’s...

*** 1/2

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS

“Henry’s Dream”

Mute/Elektra

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“I am the captain of my pain,” intones Nick Cave, whose seventh album finds him engaged in his usual pursuit--turning the topsoil of the human soil to release all manner of crawly things. The energy level of “Henry’s Dream” is several degrees higher than that of 1990’s “The Good Son,” and though it retains some of that album’s haunting repose, its thrust is provided by two elaborate narratives.

There’s a crazed, compelling momentum to the story songs “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry” and “John Finn’s Wife"--the scenarios of murder, lust and dementia unfold like a Ken Russell fever dream, surreal and lurid.

Throughout the album, Cave’s wobbly, Elvis-homage vocals are endearing in their earnest amateurism, and there’s a theatrical naturalism in his blend of folk singer’s directness and vaudevillian melodrama. The music incorporates sea chanteys, hymns and cabaret, and it’s disquieting to hear these benign forms carry such grotesque cargo.

You can imagine Cave singing these tales on the deck of a ghost ship, a spectral crew gathered around and chiming in on the deep-voiced choruses as he dances a hornpipe on the brink of the abyss. This captain may be beset by “the stink of human sin,” but a vulnerability accompanies his desolation, and somehow there’s a hint that redemption is never as far away as it seems.

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New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).


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