One of the world’s great live acts, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are returning to Manchester in support of their extraordinary album, Ghosteen.
Following 2016’s acclaimed Skeleton Tree, the band’s latest record (their 18th!) is the first full body of work to be written after the death of Cave’s son, Arthur. It thus comes as little surprise that Ghosteen is a meditation on loss. What is a surprise is the particular shade of loss that we see here. Cave’s bereavement might easily have inspired him to embody the bleak, menacing figure that we’ve encountered in many of his previous releases – a figure, indeed, for which he is adored. But this record is a thing of stark beauty, and while we find Cave in aching pain, we also find him, in an odd way, optimistic.
Through the course of this double album’s 11 tracks, Cave ruminates on the boundary between reality and fantasy, and paints the latter as a cathartic, even nourishing place in which to reside. “We’re all so sick and tired of seeing things as they are”, he sings in ‘Bright Horses’, the record’s most beautiful track. “This world is plain to see / It don’t mean we can’t believe in something”, he continues, before painting fantastical scenes of “horses prancing” as he waits for the return of his son “on the 5:30 train”. “There’s nothing wrong with loving something you can’t hold in your hand,” he muses, similarly, on Ghosteen’s title track.
The music on this record is similarly fantastical, with Cave and his band pairing rich orchestral arrangements with swirling electronics. In songs like ‘Galleon Ship’, we also get an ethereal choir, which adds an otherworldly shimmer to a song about the universality of both love and loss. While these musical directions were hinted at in the band’s previous records, a new touch is the way Cave uses his voice. The melodies are pitched much higher than we’re used to, creating a sense of the vulnerable human behind the fearsome masks that the cult figure has worn in the past. Like everything on this record, it’s a deeply considered artistic decision.
Cave is a singular talent in alternative music – one of those artists that every music fan must watch at least once. For those that have already done so, you’ll know that something magical happens when Cave walks onto a stage. His electrifying performances make arenas feel like living rooms, and each person inside an integral part of the unfolding story. That story, so evolved now, is one that we can’t wait to hear told at Manchester Arena next April.