Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Double albums are inherently problematic: Sheer bulk causes even the best of them to come across as uneven. At first listen, the 13th offering by Nick and his Bad Seeds -- the first without Einstürzende Neubauten's Blixa Bargeld on guitar -- is no exception. The rowdier disc, Abattoir Blues, launches headlong with the roaring "Get Ready for Love" -- spine-tingling gospel choir and all -- and jaunts through a variety of engaging tracks, including the comparatively boppy single "Nature Boy." But things kind of lose steam by the more downtempo Orpheus, and despite all the pretty tunes about life, love, and critters, one can't help but wonder if Cave isn't semi-recycling his formidable back catalog. But his compositions have always had an insidious narcotic effect, invariably hooking the persistent listener, and the 17 tracks contained in this lovely gift-worthy box are no different.

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