Nick Cave Has Revealed The Art Of His New Album ‘Ghosteen’, Let’s Talk About It

Written by | September 23, 2019 23:11 pm | No Comments

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Nick Cave Ghosteen

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ Ghosteen

 

Just one day after his 62nd birthday, Nick Cave casually dropped the big news in his last Red Hand Files, issue #62! The Bad Seeds are releasing a new album called ‘Ghosteen’ next week. In a second email, as if he had a second thought, he even added the art cover, a somewhat cheesy painting representing the Garden of Eden.

Since the emails landed in my mailbox around 3 am, I woke up with the news on every music blog: ‘Ghosteen’ will be a double album with parent songs and children songs… This is what Nick wrote:

‘You can expect a new album next week.
It is called Ghosteen.
It is a double album.

Part 1 comprises of eight songs.

The Spinning Song
Bright Horses
Waiting For You
Night Raid
Sun Forest
Galleon Ship
Ghosteen Speaks
Leviathan

Part 2 consists of two long songs, linked by a spoken word piece.

Ghosteen
Fireflies
Hollywood

The songs on the first album are the children.
The songs on the second album are their parents.
Ghosteen is a migrating spirit.

Love, Nick’

A concept album if they still exist. However, this is a totally unusual way to announce a release, and without any piece of music yet, without even a single to preview the album, we can only speculate. If you can’t judge a book by its cover, album covers are chosen with a very precise intention and this kitschy piece of Christian art has to mean something….

It works in pure contrast to his last album cover, the all-black ‘Skeleton Tree’ with its green courier font lettering, which was looking like an old computer screen resetting after a technical crash…. It was a mind crashing and barely resetting, trying to recover but still very much wandering in the darkness, as the recent death of his son Arthur was written all over the songs.

This new cover is all light and idyllic imagery, like a pastiche of a 19th-century painting full of clichés. Certain fans have already said this looks like the cover of a book that Jehovah witnesses pass in the streets, I actually find the art on their flyers uglier than this, but I understand the comparison.

The album cover was visibly inspired by ‘Breath of Life’ by Tom Dubois, a Christian artist who is described as someone ‘seeing the world through a child’s eyes’, and to me, looking like the Thomas Kinkade of Biblical scenes.

The painting is nevertheless altered with the addition of a white horse and a lamb, two well-known Christian symbols: the lamb is the sacrificial and innocent animal while the white horse is a symbol of death: in the Book of Revelation, the Christ rides a white horse out of heaven at the head of the armies of heaven to judge and make war upon the earth. These are obviously heavy Biblical mythology, but this will be very familiar imagery to any Nick Cave fan.

The title of the album, ‘Ghosteen’, seems to be a direct reference to his son’s death, what else could it be? Nick Cave has often written about the presence of his dead son in the Red Hand Files, like in this passage for example:

‘I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility.’

Then, doesn’t the title appear a bit too obvious for a Nick Cave album? Not mysterious enough? I am still trying to figure out ‘Skeleton Tree’ or ‘Push the Sky Away’, although I have my own idea like anyone else,… but there’s no ambiguity or double entendre for Ghosteen’. It almost sounds cartoonish as someone suggested and you effectively may even get a vision à la Casper the friendly ghost. However, it’s still the elephant in the room, a life-altering event that still cannot be ignored or pushed away, and Cave put it right in the front as if there was no point to hide it.

Does this pastoral and colorful landscape mean he has chosen the light after the darkness he went through? However, could this kitschy piece of art be a very intentional choice and could it mean something deeper and more complex than the apparent biblical/death/heaven ideas? Is the gullibility of the art giving away the trade he had to make? As if choosing the light would also mean succumbing to the clichés of a Garden of Eden or other trite representation of heaven… Does it mean that Nick is struggling with his own spiritual beliefs? I have so many questions…

We may see if there is effectively any irony when the album is out, but it’s tempting to say that ‘The Spinning Song’ could be a ‘spin’ on ‘The Weeping Song’, and there is a new ship song, ‘Galleon Ship’. As for ‘Fireflies’, he may have already revealed the lyrics of the song in the Red Hand Files issue #1. If it is the case, it a very nihilistic one, with a heavy reference to chaos and powerlessness, and without any God in view to say the least. Mr. Cave is a complicated man.

FIREFLIES

Jesus lying in his mother’s arms
Is a photon released from a dying star
We move through the forest at night
The sky is full of exit wounds of light
Everything we need is just too far
We are fireflies a child has trapped in a jar
I am here and you are where you are
I am here and you are where you are

We have lived a long time in the forest
We lie beneath the heaps of leaves
We are partial to this partial light
We cannot sleep and fear our dreams
There is no order here, nothing can be planned
We are fireflies trapped in a little boy’s hand
We are photons released from a dying star
I am here and you are where you are
I am here and you are where you are

We lie among our atoms and I speak to you of things
And hope sometimes that maybe you will understand
There is no order here and there is no middle ground
Nothing can be predicted and nothing can be planned
We are fireflies pulsing dimly in the dark
We are here and you are where you are
We are here and you are where you are

 

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