Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
2019 – Ambient Pop
Nick Cave’s Ghoosteen is not just a new bible for a new religion, it is a whole new universe
Years before the majestic “Ghosteen” reach our ears, Nick Cave experienced an immeasurable pain: the loss of a child. In July 2015, during the recording sessions for Skeleton Tree (2016), Cave received news that his 15-years-old boy had fallen Ovingdean Gap in England. This incident not only change the structure and perspective of Skeleton Tree (2016), but also the Nick’s vision about the world.
The pain of losing someone is undeniable, mainly, a son. Of course, that Nick face a really dark and scare storm since the accident. When you go through a situation like this, you sink into a place where that is no hope, happiness and reason to live, where everything seems not worth the sacrifice of going through the pain. Several times, you think about give up from everything and everyone, you think that tomorrow will be worse and that the pain wouldn’t let you live in peace.
In cases like that, the lack of a light at the end of the tunnel is eminent, however, hope still important, because only hope of that tomorrow will be a better day, or at least, a day with less pain and easier to deal with is what move you. This hope, for Cave, is called “Ghosteen”.
Different from his previous record, Skeleton Tree, that are really affected by Arthur’s death, even a huge part was made before the accident, Ghosteen has hope as the mainly topic. Already on the cover, while Skeleton Tree shows up with a black background that symbolizes mourning that contrasts with the names typed in old-school computers, the 2019’s project shows up with a beautiful, majestic and grand cover that represents a biblical scene from Heaven. The gorgeous composition that mix all the elements that will be commented later in the album created this environment of peace, tranquility and hope. I suspect that this cover is illustrative of the place where Arthur is, in Nick’s wishes.
After time to digest what happened, in 2018, Nick Cave returned to the studio to start to record “Ghosteen”. The production took 2 years to get ready, and I can say that this wait it was worth it.
The first song, “Spinning Song” that starts with this “spinning” instrumental that dances inside our heads while these elements that sound puffs on bottles filled with water has a lot of references to Elvis Presley. Isn’t a mystery that Nick is fascinated by Elvis, and in this track his describe Elvis’s fall from the stage, creating a situation of chaos. Despise that, in the end, Cave gives a sermon about the hope that he still has in his heart. This track is a great start, the instrumental was so well worked that sometimes the melodies that grow over time carry your soul to a stage above, or rather the scenario where the album will be worked.
The effect on Nick’s voice and the atmosphere took you to a space with no gravity, only you have Nick’s voice that sounds more like a divinity, and the instrumental shows up as lights and waves in the blank space.
“Bright Horses”, the second track, play the vocals as instruments, creating a smart mix of analogical, digital and vocal. With the final that are a biblical reference, this track represents that time when you are still digesting everything and you got out of the reality and create a hope that everything is just a kind of virtual reality and your loss will be right there in the next train. Moving to “Waiting For You”, we have this image of all the best moments of Nick and his son. The strong pianos complement the sad and flicker voice that Nick delivered. This is an audible representation of the period when you know that already happened, but you still with the hope, even if it is minimal.
In Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”, “I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing” is the one of most iconic phrases of the song. In “Night Raid”, of Ghosteen, we have these bells ringing. The biblical references are all over the album, and here, we still have it, but stronger. The mixed bells of a Europe’s Cathedral that are accompanied by a huge and dark organ followed by church choral. Together, these elements get compiled to create a beautiful tribute told by difficult to understand metaphors.
“Sun Forest” begins with deafening synthesizers that compose the introduction of the songs that lasts up to half. In this track, we have the first listen to the huge, deep and gorgeous vocal complexity that Nick prepared for us. While the instrumentation leads us to the chorus where the vocal that are formed by Nick’s emotional voice and a religion vibe, the lyrics talks about how he got lost when he lost his son, and almost at the end, this sudden cut leaves only a simple and calm instrument that are where Nick’s became a poem and proclaim about the beauty of the world.
The atmosphere is the most precious thing on this album. The “Galleon Ship” is invaded by this backing vocals that sound like a “soul’s voice” that are haunting Nick at this point of his journey. However, in next we have the negative points of this album: Ghosteen Speaks and Leviathan. Both of them are very repetitive, even if Leviathan has that repetition that sounds like one and Ghosteen Speaks has this very remarkable Doppler effect on the instruments, that in fact, shows up all over the album, but here, sounds a little bit stronger.
The tenth track, “Fireflies”, is a spoken music. Here, Cave mixed religion and science in a very smart way. Even if this track is another beautiful tribute to his son, with all emotion and references, in my opinion, is the weakest track.
Now, the ninth and eleventh track is the climax of this album, because both of them are huge monsters. Ghosteen have almost four minutes of introduction where the instruments are dancing and organizing to prepare you to the climax of the song. All the song is composed by a fetching orchestra to be the wall of the lyrics, where we have this unusual style, where the bridge is at the begging and the lack of chorus. This track is mainly about the leaving of his child in a metaphor and beautifully emotion way and about the place where he believes where Arthur is, the one that we saw on the album cover. As I said, both of the tracks are monsters that are indestructible because by the minute they get stronger and stronger. Even if you try to take them down, you will feel weird, because you would create a dependency of the huge vocals that seem to emerge in the middle of a cathedral and spread everywhere. With the help of a Buddhist tale, Nick ends his album yearning for peace.
With Ghosteen, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds not only created their best album, but also, a complex universe that connects all ends and talks about the after-universe. The instrumental and vocal that were worked out very well, each with a specific and unique way, helped Nick Cave create this atmosphere that cohesive, but not excessive and nauseating. Since the Doppler effect and the metaphors in the lyrics, Nick knew from the start where he wanted to get, and with a sad, cruel and hopeless journey, he’s reached the light at the end of the tunnel.