Words by Rosanna Weber
On October 4th, Nick Cave released his latest album Ghosteen, a double album, his first since Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus in 2004. Unlike the kitschy album cover art, the songs are anything but fairy tales. Cave’s descriptive writing of burning trees, Jesus in his mother’s arms, animals rising from their blood and hanging bodies is similar to earlier apocalyptic themes explored by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. If there is one emotion that Ghosteen makes you feel, if there is only one word that describes its nature, it would probably be grief. You hear it in Cave’s voice, in the synthetic dream-like background music and in the lyrics. Ghosteen seems like a way of dealing with the sudden and tragic death of Cave’s son Arthur, who accidentally fell from a cliff in Brighton in 2015. Same has been said about his previous album Skeleton Tree, which was released shortly after the incident in 2016. But whilst Skeleton Tree has been mostly written prior to Arthur’s death, Ghosteen seems much more reflective, giving an answer to how to deal with loss in the long run.
In the final song “Hollywood”, Cave makes a beautiful reference to a story in Buddhism, where a woman named Kisa tragically loses her baby. Buddha then tells her he will bring back her baby once she brings him a mustard seed from a family where no one has died. Kisa desperately knocks on every door in the village, only to realise that there is no family that hasn’t experienced death in some form or another. Finally, she accepts this universal human tragedy and buries her child. She reaches the first stage of enlightenment. The song ends with Cave telling us that all you can do is “waiting for peace to come”.