Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Album Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
***and1/2 out of *****

The short double album Ghosteen is a haunting, affecting, hopeless/hopeful album which Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds crafted after the tragic death of Cave's 15 year old son.

There is not much musical variety at work here, just the sparse synths, light pianos and mood textures as Cave expresses his poetic outpouring of emotion, but it all works as a singular effort. The opening "Spinning Song" starts with Elvis and moves throughout the process of dealing with morality as the line "time will come for us" speaks directly to the futility of it all, a them he returns to often, including the albums last lines.

However the brightness of life and hopefulness also plays a vibrant part. "Bright Horses" is one of the album highlights as female wailing begins the song but small musical enhancements like a xylophone and a shift to almost standard blues lines about babies returning on trains shifts the gears into a brighter moment.

The memory based "Night Raid" and the pianos, faith, and soul that "Waiting for You" delivers also rings of a brightness just outside the pain. There is an ethereal floating that drifts across "Galleon Ship" with voices/samples just outside of understanding as Cave paints the wave with his words or moves towards hymnal heights with "Ghosteen Speaks" while the slow building "Leviathan" surfaces eventually from the depths.

The gorgeous, almost thirteen minute, organ and string laden title track is a full musical statement in itself, distilling the artists vision for this record in symphonic and cinematic style. In a sense this title track truly says it all and while the theme is transferred throughout the rest of the tracks, it could have been released on it's own as it is so complete as Cave sings about there being nothing wrong with loving things you can't stand. Along with album closer "Hollywood" these massive musical pieces are fully formed motifs, "Hollywood" is darker and much more ominous with constant throbbing and pulsing as lyrics haunt and end with another mortality examination as he waits for peace to come. 

The humming and one note of the musical style has a tendency to drop the record into the background while weighty, poetic dealings with grief and loss of Cave's lyrics demand you pay attention. It is an tense album, seemingly cathartic for it's creator and one that everyone who has lost someone (which is all of us) can find moments of familiarity with.
Support the artist, buy the record and peep some video below:

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