NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus
(Anti)
****

Blixa Bargeld, the German guitarist/organist whom Nick Cave considered "essential" to the Bad Seeds for almost 20 years, is gone, and--shockingly, perhaps--Cave and his Seeds are none the worse for wear. Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus is not only the first album the Bad Seeds have recorded without Blixa--and a double album at that--it just might be the kind of thing 45-year-old Britons who write for Mojo even consider definitive. Which certainly isn't to say the rest of us common folk can't enjoy it. In fact, it's a fucking fantastic pair of records. Elegantly packaged in a hardbound, cloth-covered slip sleeve, the two albums' 17 songs compose a grandiose, full blown, beatific spectacle. The band retired to a tiny studio in Paris with Birthday Party producer Nick Launay and some backup singers from the London Community Gospel Choir. They've emerged with every Seeds' fan equivalent of the Holy Grail. J. BENNETT

NIKKI SUDDEN AND THE LAST BANDITS
Treasure Island
(Secretly Canadian)
**

Nikki Sudden's old band, Swell Maps, was a kind of British Velvet Underground: Unknown in its day; recognized later; and killed off way too early. Nikki's new solo record is about as good as Lou's post Velvets stuff (barring obvious greats like Transformer). It has that same loose editing and fading sense of perspective that comes with living past your prime. First song, "Looking for a Friend," is a "Personality Crisis" sound-alike. Nothing wrong there, but Nikki's softer, older vocals make it feel like karaoke; a big, rowdy rock 'n' roll band fronted by your jowly, out-of-touch uncle. Next one is country rock, then a piano ballad, all blowing with tired air, misguided ideas, and zero hooks. There's no shame in getting old--we all will, if we're lucky--but it's hard watching your heroes lose their edge. ADAM GNADE

SONS AND DAUGHTERS
Sons and Daughters
(The Leaf Label)
***

Sons and Daughters may have elements of their native Scottish traditionalism in their attendant instrumentation, but their music touches on international influences. Besides possessing a kick-ass name, the four Glaswegians employ a pull-back, push-forward songwriting style that is nothing like that of their noisier countrymen. Theirs is subtle, gently layered, and beckoning--each song entices the listener to follow the trail deeper into brambles that eventually reveal a full blown, fruit-laden resplendence. Adele Bethel can power a song with her alluring vocals or dive right into the kind of jangling guitar that usually takes half a song to build up to, and lays down a thick carpet for Scott Paterson (guitar/bass) to take the vocal lead over while she and the rest of the band--drummer David Gow and mandolin player/bassist Ailidh Lennon--whoop, holler, shake tambourines, and sonically paint a countryside that no American band ever could. KATHLEEN WILSON

**** Inigo Montoya
*** Fezzik
** The Dread Pirate Roberts
* Prince Humperdinck