Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- The Good Son
Since The Good Son has been reviewed so many times, let's get the generic stuff most of those reviews content themselves with out of the way: something something Nick Cave did a lot of drugs and made a bunch of crazy music, something something Nick Cave went to rehab and got clean for a little and fell in love and moved to Brazil, something something Nick Cave then recorded and released an album that was tame and not crazy and angered a bunch of fans who only wanted Nick Cave to make music that is crazy. Now that all of that is out of the way...
The Good Son begins with the surprisingly acoustic and laid-back,calming, yet vast tone of "Foi Na Cruz." The song features expansive strings that wouldn't be out-of-place on a late 70's Marvin Gaye track...like Nick Cave went to church or something. However, the song sounds far more somber than happy (the lyrics seem like that of a break-up song, as well). The title-track follows suit, but adds a little sadness to the mix. Speaking of sadness, next up is "Sorrow's Child," where a sad anthem of a piano line, harmonica, and strings come to the forefront. The more Gothic sound one would normally associate with Nick Cave begins to dominate with this track, though Cave is able to bring it out without injecting menace into the proceedings, maybe for the first time in his career. The hand of death is present, and yet Cave isn't leering over you about it. This is growth.
This leads into one of my favorite Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' songs: "The Weeping Song."
"The Weeping Song" nails the Gothic sound I just mentioned, including vibraphone because a Gothic-sounding song just has to have vibraphone. The song features one of Cave's biggest, most sweeping choruses, and a great duet with guitarist and barrel-throated guitarist, Blixa Bargeld. The song brings to mind a town in a dark valley (maybe next to a deep, ancient lake), surrounded by black silhouettes of mountains, under a blood red sky. It's also incredibly fun.
When I was checking out the credits for the song on All Music, I noticed that the guy who did a quick write up of the song absolutely nailed it, and since I dissed wack criticism at the top, here's a link to a good piece of non-wack journalism.
"The Weeping Song" is the first in a trilogy of consecutive The Good Son songs to begin with the word "the." The second is "The Ship Song," the polar opposite of its predecessor. "The Ship Song" is possibly the most romantic song Cave ever recorded, in every sense of the word. It uses the same instruments as "The Ship Song" (even the vibraphone!), but carries such a different feeling, contrasting the grief of "...Weeping..." with joyful yearning. Joyful yearning. That was lame. Sorry dudes. Erm...guns...uh, football...Budweiser...face-punching. Anyway, here's the video for "The Ship Song," which for some reason features the little girls from the album cover running around, haunting Cave and the band.
I saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds a couple years ago (I wrote about it here), and they played both "The Weeping Song" and "The Ship Song," causing the pleasure-center of my brain to spontaneously combust, but don't worry, it got better.
"The Hammer Song" closes out the trilogy with brute violence, Cave's pronouncement that "the hammer came down" sounding like gospel, and continuing in the marvelous Gothic vein of the previous songs. Just because the man (allegedly) quit drugs for this album doesn't make The Good Son soft. It features some of the darkest, heaviest songs of Cave's career. Just because he isn't spitting when he sings them doesn't mean he's lost his edge.
There are some other songs on this album, including a sequel to the "the" trilogy, but I've already talked about The Good Son's high-points. The rest is good, but that middle trilogy of songs is great, a portent of even better things to come.
Kid Congo Powers Sighting: The Powers have returned. This time they are given a sole credit: "guitar."
1990 Mute Records
1. Foi Na Cruz 5:39
2. The Good Son 6:01
3. Sorrow's Child 4:36
4. The Weeping Song 4:21
5. The Ship Song 5:14
6. The Hammer Song 4:16
7. Lament 4:51
8. The Witness Song 5:57
9. Lucy 4:17