Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Ghosteen (Ghosteen/Bad Seeds)
Isaac Watters: I have listened to this record on repeat many times over the last few years since it came out in 2019. It really carries me along in a way that only a few records ever have. Written after Nick Cave lost his young son, it deals with great depths of sorrow and tragedy, but everywhere throughout there is beautiful and hopeful imagery. There’s a Paul Simon lyric “I lived a life of pleasant sorrows /Until the real deal came /Broke me like a twig in a winter gale/ Called me by my name” that I think offers a nice explanation for why Ghosteen is so good.
I read in an interview that Nick Cave broke from linear storytelling for this record, just “wandering out into the vast open landscape” and you feel that horizon stretching when listening to each song – its scope is beyond any time or particular existence, but still so specific, so full of real longing and love. Lyrically it feels like it could be inspired by the likes of W.H. Auden but it is more effortless and weightless than even the best poets. The looping synths and orchestration allow your mind the right amount of space to see all the images perfectly, like watching a slow and mesmerizing film. When Nick Cave sings “And we all rose from our wonder / We would never admit defeat / And we leaned out of the window / As the rain fell on the street”, you can actually hear the rain, and you see the streetlights glistening through the water flowing down the window pane.
“The bright horses have broken free from the fields / They are horses of love, their manes full of fire”. His recurring image of burning horses – rather than being just a harbinger of apocalyptic doom is instead rendered as a blazing portrait of a world beyond our own, perhaps a conversation with his lost son. In the bare face of his unassuaged grief, there is a direct connection beyond the corporeal, and an unabashed sincerity of the truest emotions.
For me this record does what the best music does – something only music can do, something other art forms can only hint at, it rips you open, and puts you back together, but the whole time you are being ripped open and put back, you have a sense of being held in loving arms, and the fears you had just seem to drift away into the light. It finds a way to express the inexpressible and name the unnamable. If you listen to it, I hope it does the same for you.
Isaac Watters’ “My Heart is an Ocean” single and Extended Play 002 EP are out now.
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