Black Eyes

The Cave man's two-fisted culture romp dredges the depths

And the Bad Seeds' latest can be taken in tandem, as a sort of spiritually if not narratively linked soundtrack to the paperback version of Cave's bog-breaking novel And the Ass Saw the Angel, a Gothic slab of inbreddedness that'll leave you aching with bewonderment.

A broken-nose first cousin to Katherine Dunn's Geek Love, And the Ass Saw the Angel is hyperrealism a la Gabriel Garcia Marquez as seen by Sam Peckinpah and voiced by the master of the loser's angle, Jim Thompson. It's loaded with what Faulkner deems the eternal verities of fiction -- "love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice, without which a story is doomed" -- and peppered with betrayal and mayhem and injustice of the first degree. A dime novel of epic proportion, with a twang and a might all its own.

With the impending release of the latest Brad Pitt vehicle, Johnny Suede (Cave plays an "albino alcoholic" named Freak Storm), and the double dose of book and record, one should have little problem making this a long, hot summer of Nick Cave-produced malcontents. Sure, his wild world may be one devoid of blue skies, where the rainbowless rains wash away any trace of hope and dream and glory, except of the most profane nature. But it's an indelibly chronic cosmos, mined with sinister creations and stark equations, where love really is just another four-letter word. And it's not as if you have to sell your soul to journey down that endless road. You merely have to lease it out for a piece. The choice is yours.

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