|Cave, Nick & The Bad Seeds / Ghosteen|
Album / Artist: Ghosteen / Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds|
Label: Ghosteen Ltd
General Comments / Release Notes
From the Red Hand Files announcement: “It is called Ghosteen. It is a double album. Part 1 comprises of eight songs…” “…Part 2 consists of two long songs, linked by a spoken word piece. The songs on the first album are the children. The songs on the second album are their parents. Ghosteen is a migrating spirit. Love, Nick”
Comments: Beautiful and spare, these are the first songs, fully conceptualized, formed and recorded, since Cave’s son Arthur was killed in an accident in 2015. These are hymns, largely the work of Cave and Ellis, whose tape loops, strings and keyboard atmospherics provide texture at every line. Poems set to music.
Cave had been quite busy, of late, providing sage and introspective wisdom through his Red Hand Files series, in which he allows fans to “ask him anything.” It’s surprising how personal some of the questions are, but less surprising than how kind and considered Cave’s answers are. This album seems another expression of that sentiment. Cave’s half decade of terror and grief seems to have induced a metamorphosis, in which the Dark Angel of Rock & Roll, has emerged as the pale and loving Sage.
Returning to his narrative tendencies, painting scenes and rooms of small and simple griefs in his lyrics, if you are looking for the kind of Old Testament fire & brimstone antics of old, this is not the album for you. This is a new Testament, one in which Cave is the comfort, and the deliverer of compassion learned hard.
There are no hits on this album. There are no songs “made for radio.” Most songs approach acapella, with only spare atmospherics of Warren Ellis' tape machines and effects pedals to accompany. They are all exceedingly beautiful, though they sometimes blend. The lyrics are the point, here.
RIYL: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Warren Ellis, Dirty Three
1. “Spinning Song” 4:43 - Slow tempo, with Warren’s electronic atmospherics abounding. Cave’s wonderful dark sing song narrative styling begins the song, with a mythologized tale of “A King” who seems to refer to Elvis. Falsetto chorus of “Peace will come in time…” outro…
2. “Bright Horses” 4:52 - Slow tempo, piano melody is wonderful. Caves vocals lead and are perfectly supported by Ellis’s strings.
3. “Waiting for You” 3:54 - Mechanical noise rhythmic beginning, fades quickly. Slow with piano and Ellis' atmospherics. Sad and beautiful.
4. “Night Raid” 5:07 - Intro keyboard sounds like an old grandfather clock. Tape loops, chimes and Jean Michele-Jarre style atmospherics.
5. “Sun Forest” 6:46 - Slow, spare melodies and low piano underneath Cave’s recitation. Very quiet outro.
6. “Galleon Ship” 4:14 - Slow and quiet. Intro with Ellis' effects and unintelligible voices that sound out of broken radios. Lovely chorus accompanies. Long outro fade.
7. “Ghosteen Speaks” 4:02 - More slow, spare atmospherics, and a wailing church-choir chorus to make this one distinct from other tracks.
8. “Leviathan” 4:47 - Slow and spare. Dark and brooding intro, evokes the deep of the track’s title. Light tablas-style rhythm accompanies. “I love my baby and my baby loves me…” ad infinitum…
1. “Ghosteen” 12:10 - In three parts, the “Spirit” of the title. Slow and atmospheric. Instrumental to 5:00 minutes, when lyrics begin. Full-throated singing, finally. This approaches the idea of an actual song, with soaring strings and chorus accompanying for 3 minutes, then returns to the accompanied poetics of the rest of the album.
2. “Fireflies” 3:23 - True spoken word piece, with some atmospherics. Cave has specified this poem as one in which he struggled with the death of his son.
3. “Hollywood” 14:12 - Slow spare and atmospheric, but somehow metallic and menacing in parts. More sing-spoken poetry. Falsettos in parts. Grief everywhere in this one.