Album of the Week: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, 'Ghosteen'

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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, 'Ghosteen'
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, 'Ghosteen' (Ghosteen Ltd.)
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Ghosteen is the thirteenth album officially released from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Unlucky for some but not them, or should I say him, because it really could be a solo album. This has been getting rave reviews, even being suggested as a best ever, a pinnacle. It's rare to have such acclaim forty years into a career, after having very little mainstream traction. His biggest 'hit' is the song "Red Right Hand," an epic masterpiece which I used to hold as a sacred secret. It became an unlikely theme tune to a TV show from the UK that has been praised for it's use of music, Peaky Blinders. That level of mainstream attention was amped up as recently as last month when Snoop Dogg did a cover of it!

I was so happy to have been able to see the stunning question and answer show Nick did at The Pantages October 1st. He was asked about the Snoop cover and it was one moment in the evening when I felt he literally had no answer. He still can't get his head around the idea that such a monumental celebrity would deem it ... tenable. As he paused, we hung on the edge of all our own realities, suspended with Nick on the lip of the stage as he literally put his hand to his temple.

"Help me out people, or someone!" He seemed to be saying, "This is MUCH trippier than anything I ever experienced in my drug haze days!"

On "Hollywood", the final track of what he describes as a double album, he croons, in a low husky voice, "We're on our way to Malibu. Half way down the Pacific coast I left you sleeping like a ghost. Darling your dreams are your greatest part."

At The Pantages he said that he didn't use dreams to help him write but believed that the state that he goes into to write is a kind of dream state. The entire album, with only low hums, no drums, moaning synths, and plinking piano, is like a soundtrack to a dream. He's been writing a lot of them, this might be his first that doesn't have a film, yet. Just as you're thinking, but this isn't what I had hoped for from him, I like me some big bad ballsy Bad Seeds. Am I supposed to give him a pass on having cliched lyrics, because he had that terrible loss? He even mentions Jesus at least three times, again, and then...even though most of the album's lyrics seem non-sensical, about galleons circling the sun, as if in a dream, you realize that the story this final song is telling is morphing into an account of the death of his son, who died on a beach near Brighton, England.

This event has helped catapult him into the eye of a larger global audience, ironically it seems by the way he reacted to it. Astounded by the way his fans opened up to him while he was grieving with his family he decided to become much more open. Compassionate. Giving of himself in service to something that he doesn't pretended to totally understand, but is willing to have faith in.

Starting as a dark haired, gaunt punk rocker out of the hinterland of Victoria Australia in 1979, and going through some deep periods of drug abuse, he understood the aloof, imperious rock star image that he was expected to maintain, he was a notoriously "tough" interview! But he has now built a unique on-line community around the simple idea of 'Ask Me Anything' called the Red Hand Files.

Now his answers to questions on that get him privileged space on the music blogs, as if he had released a single or fallen off the stage. The Conversations tour grew out of those files and is a wonderful example of an aging rocker realigning to his audience. As fans we just want to be in the room with him, hear his stories and opinions and be able to get a selfie perhaps or sign a book. I once had him do that for me in the old Let It Be Records in '96, when he was going on a book tour for one of my favorite books ever, When The Ass Saw The Angel. It was bizarre when Ryan, who used to own the store gave me a hug in the foyer of The Pantages that night.

So no I don't think this is his greatest album unless we accept that the art and the life have become completely inseparable which is...brilliant to watch manifest in a strangely bizarre way. Growing up he never thought of himself writing soundtracks for Hollywood and never dreamed he would lose a son so tragically. Now both have happened and become inexorably linked. Now with this album, as if in a movie, he's taking us on that journey with him. He said that night at the Pantages, he is a Vampire. Now playing everywhere in a movie called 'Ghosteen'.

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  • Mary Lucia: an intimate and emotional portrait of Nick Cave In July of 2015, before Nick Cave and his band recorded their latest album, 'Skeleton Tree,' Cave's 15-year-old son, Arthur, died falling off a cliff in Brighton. Rather than being asked the same wrenching questions over and over, Cave enlisted the help of a friend and collaborator to attempt to form an honest reflection of grief and improvisation; that is exactly what Andrew Dominik did. Read Mary Lucia's thoughts on the resulting film, 'One More Time With Feeling.'
  • Album Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away Listen to Nick Cave's music as an ongoing narrative to fully appreciate what you might have dismissed as the "that goth rock."

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