ALBUM REVIEW: Nick Cave Looks Toward the Light on ‘Ghosteen’

But you might find yourself missing the darkness…

I am standing at the platform, waiting for the metro on a heavy and cold October day in Copenhagen. Right as the metro arrives, I put on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ new album. I enter the train and sit down next to a woman in a fur coat. The sound from my headphones is steadily rising. Facing backwards, I watch the metro leave the station. It’s only been a few seconds, but the sound from Cave and the Seeds has already shut the world around me out. As he croons, “I love you, I love you,” I feel a tear coming to my eye. 

There is no doubt that Ghosteen is a big album. “The bigger the sound, the closer to God” might be the mantra. Nick Cave’s majestic and brooding songwriting is always on point, and his lyrics here draw parallels to fellow greats like Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen. The Bad Seeds’ emotive sound swallows and surrounds you, telling you the story of a devastated man that drips with feeling.

Whereas 2016’s Skeleton Tree was a dark and desperate reaction to the death of Cave’s teenage son, Ghosteen sounds like the next step in the grieving process, when darkness begins turning into light. It’s still filled with intense sadness, but it’s more “tell the people you love that you love them” and “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” 

When all that is said and done, however, I have to confess that this album doesn’t really hook me. I am a massive Nick Cave fan, but on Ghosteen I really do miss the bad side of the Bad Seeds. 

I know Cave has been through a lot, and I have the greatest respect for him using his music as therapy while dealing with grief and despair. Cave is trying to find beauty in the pain, and after everything he’s been through, it makes perfect sense. It would be weird if he did The Firstborn is Dead all over again.

Still, I have to be honest. Nick Cave is one of my all-time favorite artists, his music means the world to me, but I do miss the dark, dirty and desperate Nick Cave and the more mischievous Bad Seeds. 

Hopefully this album will grow on me over time, but right now I find it a bit unexciting and difficult to rate. Musically it’s incredible, but it loses me along the way. 

Score: 👻👻👻👻 / 5