Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
Oct 3, 2019 (updated Oct 5, 2019)
EDITED: some heavy personal stuff; just a warning

Here I am typing this up when I should be typing up a Literature essay... Typical me.

I'm honestly amazed. I was surprised to hear we would be getting another Nick Cave album so soon (?) after Skeleton Tree. Honestly, I wouldn't have been too surprised to hear that was to be he and the Bad Seeds' last. However, Ghosteen is here, and it's nothing short of stunning. It picks up right where Skeleton Tree left off in its bare and haunting instrumentation paired with Cave's recently developed affinity for simpler and more blunt poetry. Whereas Skeleton Tree felt like necessary process of purging the storm of grief and hopelessness that comes with loss, I now see that Ghosteen is the equally necessary process of learning to walk again. It's not like Nick made Skeleton Tree and got rid of the pain that came with the loss of his son. No, he has to live on. His open wounds may be scars now, but they itch and itch often. I know the feeling, and it feels almost poetic that it would be Nick Cave whose album touches me like this. Back in 2016, I was starting to really dive into music. I was starting high school at a new and larger school than the one I grew up in, and it was scary, but luckily I made a friend who had the same passion for music that I did. In a very short amount of time, she was able to provide something I hadn’t had to that degree before: a kinship born out of mutual love for art. She introduced me to the “album experience” via exchanges where I’d listen to something she wanted me to and she’d do the same in return. One of these albums was Skeleton Tree. At the time, I had no idea who Nick Cave was, and being a new listener whose idea of a masterpiece was still Black Holes & Revelations by Muse (no shade), I didn’t “get it.” I had no appreciation for the stark sounds and raw pain that Cave put out there for me and everyone else in the world to hear. I felt for the guy’s loss, but there wasn’t much of a reason for me to connect with it. Unfortunately, less than a month later, there would be. That same friend took her own life, and since then I’ve sort of taken it upon myself to continue her passion for listening to music. It began as some kind of mission, a way to honor her, but now I realize that it was my way of feeling close to her. Recently I’ve been reading about the more open interaction that Nick Cave has had with his fans in the aftermath of Arthur’s (fun fact: that’s my middle name) death, and one response to a fan asking about grief in particular left me stunned:

“This is a very beautiful question and I am grateful that you have asked it. It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love, and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.“

When listening to this record, all of this came flooding back to me. This is music born out of overwhelming loss and grief, yes, but also a meditation on how to find peace and comfort within the memory and lasting presence of lost loves. For that reason, Ghosteen feels just as haunting as Skeleton Tree to me, and personally even more powerful. It's an album not about loss, but about learning to carry the memories of whoever you miss and appreciating the beauty that life can still provide. Loss is scarring. It’s a horrible and cruel thing to have to go on living when a part of you is dead. It leaves a hole that can never be filled, but personally, I know that I’d rather have made those memories and have that love taken away than for it to have always been absent. In many ways, these things have made me do the things I’ve done and made me the person I am, and no matter how I feel about that, I know there are people who are grateful for that. I may not be able to physically interact with my friend in this life, but Cave and his music have reminded me that she is still around. It’s a tough concept to grasp, so I’ll let the man himself wrap up my thoughts.

“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. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw is back to the world from which we are jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.”

With love, Wes.
Oct 5, 2019
I just read the edit and wow. Just wow. I've caught glimpses of you talking about this girl, but I didn't know it ended the way it did. I'm truly sorry, Wes. You said it beautifully though. I got into botany for the same reasons actually. Granted, it was cancer that took my grandfather, but shortly after my childhood friend took his life. My family commemorates them every dia de los muertos. Those words from Nick Cave couldn't be more true. Love you man. I'm grateful to have you as a friend.
Oct 6, 2019
This review almost made me cry goddamn. I don't really know what else to say other than I hope you take care of yourself and continue searching for meaning in a cynical world. Your candidness and honesty is a blessing to us all. With love.
Oct 6, 2019
i love you wes
Oct 6, 2019
Oct 6, 2019
Thank you so much for sharing this review man... It was really touching
It must be really hard to live with grief, but I'm so glad you were able to find your way. It means a lot to hear people talk about the topic like this. Love you
Oct 6, 2019
I just want to give you a hug right now. <3
It's great that music can sometimes connect with us on such an emotional level. I felt the same when listening to this record too, and honestly, it might be my favorite Nick Cave record. This album really hits you in a powerful way.
Oct 6, 2019
wow. this fucking gave me goosebumps. I'm sorry for what happened to your friend.
Oct 7, 2019
Wow what a comment. I tried listening to this album (never really listened to Nick Cave before) as it's so highly rated and I like to broaden my music listening. However j couldn't get anything from it.

After reading this its given me a whole new perspective on how to take this album in. I think I'm gunna give it another chance!

Thanks a lot Wes!
Jan 18, 2020
Excellent review, sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Continuing in what your friend started, I highly recommend checking out the full album “Arthur” by the Kinks. The name is fitting for you, but this album is absolutely essential and a great experience from start to finish.
Apr 15, 2020
I can only say that I cried reading your comment. Thank you for sharing. <3
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