The Listener

An intense slab of religiosity: Nick Cave's Seven Psalms reviewed

16 July 2022

9:00 AM

16 July 2022

9:00 AM

 Grade: B

There has always been a seriousness and intelligence about Nick Cave quite at odds with that which usually attends to the rancid, tottering, old tart that is rock music, so there should be no surprise that he’s left it completely behind. This is a collection of seven spoken word prayers to that entity with which the Australian has had a long and not always straightforward relationship, God. They are accompanied by minimalist synth and piano compositions – kind of three-note fugues – from collaborator Warren Ellis and none of them clocks in at more than two minutes.


Intense religiosity has always both repelled and attracted Cave: here he succumbs entirely, his conviction evident in the slightly grating grandiosity of the titles – ‘I Have Wandered All My Unending Days’, for example, and ‘I have Trembled My Way Deep’. On ‘Such Things Should Never Happen’ he wrestles with that familiar old conundrum as to why, if there is a God, He allows for the existence of unassuaged pain and misery. Cave is unable to provide a compelling answer beyond that it is to test our persistence. A baby swallow dies, but the mother builds her nest again, etc. (the pathos of the image only slightly lessened by Cave forgetting what bird he is talking about, referring to it once as a sparrow).

OK, Thomas Aquinas it is not quite, but one appreciates both the attempt and the anguish behind the attempt – two of Cave’s children died at a terribly early age. The ‘limited edition’ EP is got up very nicely and will look cool on your coffee table, but I am not wholly convinced that anyone will play it more than once.

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