Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Good Son - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Released in 1990, The Good Son is the sixth album of Australia's favourite rock god, Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds.

The opening track, Foi Na Cruz (translated It Was On The Cross) is based on a Brazilian hymn. It is evocative, sounding like a hundred drunk and lonely sailors singing with their arms around each other, finding comfort only in the promise of salvation offered by Jesus. This album is where the Bad Seeds became a full theatrical production, evolving from a rhythm section into an orchestra. Interestingly, it's one of the smaller incarnations of the band, with only four members in addition to Cave. The orchestral arrangements lend themselves to a much bigger band, as found on the subsequent albums.

L came to Nick Cave quite late, embarrassingly only paying attention to him when he sang with Kylie Minogue (shame.). She finally got it in 2001 with No More Shall We Part. Her theory is that her teenage angst soundtrack needed more of a dance beat or distorted guitar. Tea Party, Tool, Limp Bizkit... (for what use is a blog if you can't confess your shame to the world?).

The father-son duet of The Weeping Song is extraordinary. The question and answer lyrics are compelling, sad and elegant; for example, "Father, why are all the children weeping? They are merely crying son. O, are they merely crying father? Yes, the true weeping is yet to come."

The Ship Song is one of the most perfect, romantic songs of all time. It's a harbinger of the beautiful ballads Cave would perfect in albums like The Boatman's Call. None, however, have ever matched The Ship Song.

The Witness Song is pure anarchic gospel. It evokes an image of an antichrist church, filled with a choir clad in black robes and a congregation of demonic, crazed followers. What amazed me about Cave when I first heard his music was the theatre of this songs. Songs like The Witness Song are three act musicals with a narrative arc, character development and a shocking twist to end.

To describe Cave as a songwriter is an injustice. Cave is a dramatist, who constructs a dark, disturbing and enthralling world. Each of his albums tells its own story. The Good Son is about longing, disappointment and shame. The title character epitomises the paradox Cave illustrates on this album - humans following their desires can destroy themselves, their family and any chance of fulfilment in the process.

This is not the last time we'll pull a Cave album out of the basket. We look forward to lengthy debates about which is his best.

1 comment:

  1. I always want to call your basket a bucket. I'm not sure why that is. Anyways ,have either of you ever read any of Nick Cave's novels? I tried to read And the Ass Saw the Angel while I was at uni (it is the type of book that gives you kudos when studying fine arts). I don't think I got even half way through it - it made me so angry, all those tricky words. In the end I gave up and chose to play Tender Prey a lot instead while taking in the printmaking fumes. I hope Tender Prey is in the basket/bucket.