Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

Perhaps one of the longest singles we’ve ever reviewed…


Tim de Reuse: The first half: an expensive-sounding concatenation of orchestral tropes that aim for nothing higher than consonant wooshing. The second half: Nick Cave mutters “Here we go,” and then mourns for five long minutes. And it’s not like I feel nothing listening to this little portrait of a mourning family, on-the-nose as it is (Best line: “Papa bear, he just floats”) but there’s something impersonal about such lavish design, and there’s something distant about Cave’s grandiose imagery. Does crushing emotion really sound so cinematic?

Alfred Soto: I get it. He’s respectable. He may have earned a few minutes of a string section. Then the star makes his entrance and I’m thumbing my phone. A literalist, which means he means what he says, Nick Cave is a performer devoid of mystery, a songwriter who has embraced darkness for more than thirty years because he thinks doing so adduces his depth. Once in a while he’s hooked me with one of his grand experiments in pomp. Listening to “Ghosteen,” I mourn Scott Walker.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: “Ghosteen” contains the accumulated rage and the tempestuous resentment of a man entirely questioning his faith, and releases into the eventual embrace of the controlled chaos in the beyond. This is Nick Cave’s Ordet — and like Dreyer’s film, it renders its own kind of miracle.

Will Adams: A three-act tale of grief, “Ghosteen” plays its cards slowly, if a bit obviously. After exactly five minutes of uncertain harmony, the song finally lands on a tonic, and the clouds part. The light is brief, however; in the last third, the orchestra falls away leaving a lone synth and Nick Cave to tumble out verse after verse. The imagery and emotions are not subtle, but they capture the way grief amplifies feelings to their most extreme and crushing.

Tobi Tella: An immense soundscape that manages to put you on cloud 9 and then make you question it thoroughly through it’s 12 minute runtime. It’s meandering, but it’s allowed to be.

Ian Mathers: After a few listens the length still isn’t quite working for me — not because singles “shouldn’t” be 12 minutes (c’mon) and certainly not because I’m adverse to lengthy songs in general. It’s more than “Ghosteen” in particular taps into an especially rich, swirling vein of sorrow near the middle of it, and then never quite returns. So I’m knocking a song about the dissatisfactions of grief for being, in some sense, unsatisfying? Well, when you put it like that…

Reader average: [8] (1 vote)

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