Nick Cave’s music has often reached me in a way that much other music fails to: he is an unlikely artist to fill enormodomes- the usual territory of music that is fine in itself but is unlikely to scare or challenge anyone.
Sometimes music reaches so deep into you that other things seem to fade away: this experience is so powerful that it threatens to consume you. I got this sensation when I first started to listen to Ghosteen; it has never quite left me. Others have written more volubly and ably about this work, I see it as a series of meditations on thoughts and feelings arising from the death of his 16 year old son, Arthur. Like the best art, this is rarely direct and is even more moving because of that.
The whole album is shot through with so many things such as: loss, pain, joy, hope and redemption. It doesn’t leave us with easy answers, but I feel better for having played it.
I could have featured any track, but here an extract from ‘Bright Horses’. A high, spectral voice, talk of bright horses (who appear throughout the album as a kind of metaphor for hope) with manes of fire and the protagonist holding someone’s hand, before the mood turns and this is sung:-
‘And everyone has a heart and it’s calling for something
We’re all so sick and tired of seeing things as they are
Horses are just horses and their manes aren’t full of fire
The fields are just fields, and there ain’t no Lord
And everyone is hidden, and everyone is cruel
And there’s no shortage of tyrants, and no shortage of fools
Then the mood turns again- as it often does on this album: there may be something more, something ‘other’:-
And the little white shape dancing at the end of the hall
Is just a wish that time can’t dissolve at all’.
It don’t mean we can’t believe in something, and anyway
My baby’s coming back now on the next train
I can hear the whistle blowing, I can hear the mighty roar
I can hear the horses prancing in the pastures of the Lord…