*** 1/2; NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS, "Let Love In"; Mute/Elektra

Will this explorer of the soul's darkest recesses be the upcoming "Lollapalooza" tour's sacrificial cult band, like the Jesus and Mary Chain two years ago--a nocturnal creature brought blinking to the stage in bright sunlight while the alternative-rock hit acts wait for the flattering cover of night?

Even though it coincides with this opportunity to be heard by a huge audience--one that has embraced his filtered-down influence without even knowing it--Cave's new album isn't exactly a gesture toward the mainstream. But "Let Love In" is less phantasmagoric than its immediate predecessors, abandoning the last album's queasy cabaret and surreal sea chanteys for classic rock strains--a "Blonde on Blonde" richness, haunting Doors grooves, Stones raucousness.

Musical broadening notwithstanding, "Let Love In" is unmistakably Cave. Devils still crawl around the bedroom, cities are dark and murderous places, and love remains a source of loss and torment and little else. Cave has never set forth these themes with more musical elegance, and he illuminates them with something new--the glimmerings of a vulnerable spirit.

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