Music Review: Ghosteen
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, when Nick Cave was screeching and stalking across the stage as the volatile frontman for the post-punk band The Birthday Party, it would have been nearly impossible to picture him putting out this tender, undeniably sincere offering. While the Australian vocalist may have mellowed with age, the change in tone can also partly be chalked up to the death of his son in 2015—an event that contributed heavily to the deeply emotional tone of the latest work from Cave and his longtime bandmates in the Bad Seeds.
Ghosteen is a double album, with the eight shorter songs on the first album presented as the “children” and the three long songs on the second album as their “parents.” Cave’s gravelly vocals are supported by sparse instrumentation consisting mostly of analog synthesizer and intermittent piano.
With its frequently meandering melodies and wordy lyrics, Ghosteen is less an assembly of songs in the traditional sense than it is an unusually tuneful poetry reading. That said, Cave’s melodies and lyrics make up in poignancy what they often lack in concision. Some samples of his heartfelt words: “We are photons released from a dying star. We are fireflies a child has trapped in a jar, and everything is distant as the stars. I am here and you are where you are,” and “A priest runs through the chapel. All the calendars are turning. A Jesus freak on the street says, ‘He is returning!’ Well, sometimes a little bit of faith can go a long, long way. Your soul is my anchor. I never asked to be freed. Well, sleep now. Sleep now. Take as long as you need, ’cause I’m just waiting for you … to return.”