22 Mar 2020

Nick Cave's Ghosteen

From New Horizons, 5:00 pm on 22 March 2020

Grief and loss have inspired some fine music, from great Requiems to the simplest of elegies. And they're the force behind Nick Cave's latest album, Ghosteen.

Ghosteen cover - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Ghosteen cover - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Photo: supplied

In 2015, Nick Cave lost his 15-year-old son, in a tragic accident that happened during the recording of Cave’s Skeleton Tree album.

Skeleton Tree would be Cave’s last studio album for some time. In its wake, the singer spoke of having no imaginative space in which to sit down and actually write. A block that he’d describe in almost physical terms — filling up your body to the point of it pressing against the inside of your fingers — and leaving no room for the luxury of creation.

Yet, in a sense, he now admits to finding a new freedom from it; at its most mundane, a liberation from the formality of writing his music in an office. He’s no longer constrained to come up with a whole song — just lines, thoughts, images and ideas will suffice, and he’s given to quoting the appeal of the words of Stevie Smith when the poet wrote of “sweet prairies of anarchy.”

Four years on from Skeleton Tree, Cave’s new album Ghosteen has allowed him to express his grief in a set of songs that finds the perfect balance between fervour and serenity — songs that outline a sense of loss that’s wider and more all-encompassing than Cave’s very specific tragedy in 2015.

Music Details

'Song title' (Composer) – Performers
Album title

'March, from Music For the Funeral of Queen Mary' (Purcell) – Equale Brass Ensemble, John Eliot Gardiner
Music For Queen Mary

'Theme from A Clockwork Orange' (Purcell arr Carlos) – Wendy Carlos
A Clockwork Orange, Soundtrack

'In darkness let me dwell' (Dowland) – John Potter (tenor), John Surman (bass cl)
In Darkness Let Me Dwell

'Emily Sparks' (Buckner) – Richard Buckner
Richard Buckner

'God Is In The House' (Cave) – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
No More Shall We Part

'Jesus Alone' (Cave) – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Skeleton Tree
(Bad Seed)

'Spinning Song' (Cave) – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
(Bad Seed)

'Waiting for You' (Cave) – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
(Bad Seed)

'Leviathan' (Cave) – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
(Bad Seed)

'Hollywood' (Cave) – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
(Bad Seed)

'Night Raid' (Cave) – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
(Bad Seed)

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