Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' Ghosteen: What You Need To Know
Nick Cave's most recent album Skeleton Tree, his 16th with his band the Bad Seeds, arrived in 2016 under tragic circumstances: during its recording, Cave's 15-year old son Arthur died after falling from the edge of a cliff on the Sussex coast. Obviously, Arthur's death had a profound effect on his father, who channelled his grief through his work to produce an album that was rightly considered to be his most profound and affecting to date.
Three years on, Cave returns with its follow-up Ghosteen, the first double album he has released with the Bad Seeds since Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus arrived in 2004. The album arrived digitally last month, but finally lands in stores in physical form today. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
The release of Skeleton Tree was accompanied by a film, One More Time With Feeling, directed by Andrew Dominik. Much like the album itself, the film ended up being something very different to its initial performance-based concept, instead becoming more of a documentary about both the creative process and the process of grieving, intercutting rehearsals, recording footage and interviews with Cave – apparently as a way of getting his thoughts across without having to speak to the media.
Since then, things had been very quiet until Ghosteen suddenly emerged online, almost without warning, at the beginning of October this year. A physical release has lagged behind but the new double album makes its way into stores this week on CD and vinyl.
Who's producing it?
As with Skeleton Tree, the new album has been co-produced by Cave himself and longtime collaborator Warren Ellis.
Any special guests?
No. In more ways than one, Ghosteen feels like a very solitary affair.
What does it sound like?
Ghosteen picks up in similar sonic territory to where the closing tracks on its predecessor left off, with a tapestry of swirling synths gradually leading into the chiming piano chords of 'Bright Horses', a beautifully delicate ballad which arguably ranks as one of the album's real standout tracks.
Those early moments set the scene for an album which, like Skeleton Tree, is a very downtempo and contemplative one. Lyrically, as you might expect, the death of Cave's son still dominates his thoughts, but where Skeleton Tree's most intense moments exhibited a grief that was still nerve-jangling raw, here there's a real sense of hope and optimism.
The grief is still palpable, but compared to his last album Ghosteen feels more like the celebration of a life lived than the mourning of a life lost. Even at the most acutely heartbreaking moments such as 'Galleon Ship' and 'Ghosteen Speaks', the musical textures cut across the lament of his lyrics to generate an uplifting, almost euphoric vibe. It's powerful stuff.
Does it deliver?
Cave's last two albums have seen him quite publicly wrestling with a seismic life event through his work and you have to admire the bravery with which he's pouring himself into his art, but what's remarkable is that he's doing so while creating some of the most beautiful sonic textures he's ever created. Warren Ellis deserves a portion of the credit here too and the pair's soundtrack work has also clearly informed the music on their last two albums together, but Cave is in the midst of an artistic transformation here and Ghosteen feels like the dawn of a new era for The Bad Seeds.