From his days in the early '80s with the Birthday Party to his more recent work with the Bad Seeds, Australian gloom icon Nick Cave has established a musical oeuvre that doesn't exactly evoke sunny days or happy thoughts.
Many of his songs are about betrayal, depression and death, and even when he croons about love, religion and redemption, he does so in a dusky, grandiose style overflowing with beauty but bereft of joy.
So, choosing a brooding album title like Nocturama seems only natural for the duke of darkness, especially considering the term's definition: a large pen where zoo animals are kept at night.
Strangely, Cave was almost pressured into changing the name.
"A lot of people had problems with the name," he said. "I always thought of it as a warm kind of title. Other people objected to it because they thought that it was dark, unnecessarily dark. But I didn't find it that way."
Nocturama, which comes out February 11, is a natural progression from 2001's sweeping No More Shall We Part. Again, Cave explores various shades of love — from black and ugly to fiery and blood-red — with gorgeous, broody ballads filled with delicate piano, gliding strings, meandering basslines, feather-light drumming and Cave's resonant, pain-stricken vocals. But after three down-tempo numbers that sound like suicidal show tunes, Cave and the Bad Seeds inject urgency into the proceedings with "Bring It On" and "Dead Man in My Bed." Then, there are four more reflective cuts before the band again kicks into overdrive with the nearly 15-minute tumbling super-jam "Babe, I'm on Fire."
"We had difficulty on the order of the songs because we were dealing in extremes," Cave said. "It makes a big difference how they're actually ordered. For me, I love the slow stuff, and it was very important to me to focus on that first. So that's kind of why it requires patience for some people to get into the record. Everyone was telling me, 'Put the loud songs first so that people are thrown into the record.' But I couldn't do that."
The first single from Nocturama will be "Bring It On," which features guest vocals by Chris Bailey, the singer for influential Australian late-'70s punk and pop band the Saints.
"They're one of my great influences," Cave said. "As a kid, I used to go to all of their gigs, and I was taught everything I needed to know about music, as far as I was concerned at the time. So, it was an absolute joy to get Chris to come sing with us. We chose the song as the single because, well, if there was anything that was going to get played anywhere, it would be that one."
Cave is understandably proud of his band's new record and is looking forward to playing U.S. shows this summer to support the disc. But Nocturama isn't the only music on his mind.
"I write all the time and I'm midway through our next record," he said. "In this day rock bands take so long to get to their next record because you have to do the press and the promotion and the touring. And there's a certain idea that you have to pull your head in at certain times, wait for the market to open up again and come out in a blaze of glory. I can't be bothered that. We want to try and make an album a year for the next three years, writing and recording them very quickly, and just kind of keep them coming out."