Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus, the new double album from Cave and the Bad Seeds, is not a return to old form. It is a stunning molding of a new form, with the matured songwriting talent evidenced on the last few tamer Bad Seeds records meeting the go-for-broke spirit of Cave's early work. The departure of longtime guitarist Blixa Bargeld has reinvigorated the band; the two albums contain some of the best songs Cave and Co. have ever written, some graced with nuance and beauty while others revel in bleak humor and grotesqueries. The double-album concept works well here, as Abattoir takes the darker, more uptempo material and Lyre resounds with the gentler, more pastoral songs. The albums are mercifully succinct as well: At only seventeen songs between them, they avoid the usual double-album bloat.
With all the chaos that has swirled him, it's amazing that Cave has even made it this far -- much less created a new high mark in his career. Though he no longer scrawls poetry with syringes of his own blood, Cave shows on Abattoir/ Lyre that love and other morbid things still burn in his heart -- and that getting older doesn't mean getting artistically stale.