Ghosteen is the new album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the first since the heart-breaking Skeleton Tree in 2016. Recorded in Brighton, Los Angeles and Berlin, Cave says of the album that the songs on the first record are children and the songs on the second record are the parents. It seems he’s thought about it, anyway.
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You know the score by now - in 2015, during the recording of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ sixteenth studio LP ‘Skeleton Tree’, Cave’s son died. ‘Skeleton Tree’ was largely completed at the time of Arthur Cave’s death, but the incident still hung heavy on an already murky and abstracted record. New double-album ‘Ghosteen’ is the first set of material that Cave and his band have made completely in the aftermath of this tragedy.
It’s hard to say exactly how different ‘Ghosteen’ would have been if Arthur hadn’t died. Instrumentally, perhaps, not so much. The Bad Seeds continue down the path they began walking on 2013’s superb ‘Push The Sky Away’, one that finds them abandoning rockist songcraft in favour of impressionist electronics and fogged ambience. Guitars and drums melt away as Cave and his right-hand-man Warren Ellis conjure up watery reveries from synthesisers, pianos, strings and choirs.
However, while the music here is in keeping with Bad Seeds efforts of the past, Cave’s words are the indicator that things have changed starkly. Loss, profound and consuming, informs his writing here. The death lurks in the writing of both ‘Ghosteen’s song-driven first half and the more sprawling, spoken-word-focussed second. There are still painterly flights of fancy - the album opens with a florid monologue about Cave’s evergreen figure of fascination Elvis Presley - but in light of lyrics like "I’m just waiting for peace to come" these feel like vain attempts to occupy a grieving mind. It’s desperate, sad and very moving.
10/10 Robert Haymon-Collins 14th November 2019
An admittedly late-comer to Nick Cave in any substantive way, this album floored me.
Yes like us all I know about the dreadful death of his son but the two discs are riven through with such a tangible sense of despair and loss, a loss any parent can elate to. Profoundly moving, beautiful, by turns stark and luxuriously coloured, it's a suite of music that demands to be heard as a piece.
Uncompromising and compelling, his voice is outstanding and direct, the accompanying playing is light and well judged, the album never fails to bring a tear to m eye. It is a thing of great beauty
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