Nick Cave’s first album for the Epitaph imprint Anti opens with a sublime take on post-punk voodoo blues from Australia’s expert on the subject, the forlorn yet hopeful "Wonderful Life." It ends with "Babe, I’m on Fire," a scorching 14-1/2-minute freakout that could easily serve as punk’s indulgent and less-mystical answer to "Stairway to Heaven."
In between, Cave delivers some of the most passionate and compelling music he’s made. The impeccable Bad Seeds (Mick Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, Thomas Wydler, Martyn Casey, Jim Sclavunos, Warren Ellis) are culled from other formidable units, among them Einstürzende Neubauten, Dirty Three, and Cave’s original group, the Birthday Party. They’re in exquisite form here, gentle and virtuosic when required (on "Right out of Your Hand" and the elegantly noirish "Still in Love"), raw and powerful during barely controlled outbursts like "Dead Man In My Bed." Nocturama represents a refinement of the Bad Seeds’ black art, with Cave bringing new levels of complexity and depth to the dark æsthetic that remains his calling card.