Good lessons for good listeners
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have graced fans yet again with a distinctly inspired performance in their latest record, Carnage. Hypnotic, enthralling and at times confusing, the pair clearly see the world with a fresh set of eyes as they manage to weave intricate, enigmatic thoughts into every facet of their album. Like a flowing river without bound, concept interlaces with sound to manifest what can only be called a one-of-a-kind record.
The beautiful thing about Carnage is the way it plays like a stream of consciousness. Everything is produced from the lens of a meditative storyteller, walking the listener through a sea of various musings and conundrums that reflect the fleeting nature of thought and emotion.
Whether it be the morbid admittance in “Balcony Man” with the remark “I’m 200 pounds of blood and bone leaking on your favorite chair” to the jubilant undertone in “White Elephant” as voices cheer “there is a kingdom in the sky,” the isolated lyrics can independently seem confusing. Thankfully the instrumentation points them in the right direction, making the record best understood experientially. Words alone aren’t enough to carry the weight of what Cave and Ellis are trying to express. This influence may have originated from the pair’s reputation for creating film scores. Rather than formulaically ascribing to a typical songwriting style, the duo paints a full picture, and in doing so, cements that music can be just as viscerally empowering as an amazing movie.
Though it would be time-consuming to comb through each carefully crafted motif on the album, “Hand of God” provides a perfect example of the duo’s masterful artistry. Its position as the first track feels intentional, as the listener is first met with pure exhilaration induced by a dramatic change in tone. The singer first explains, “there are some people trying to find out who/ there are some people trying to find out why,” then slowly drifts before continuing, “I’m going to the river where the current rushes by/ I’m gonna swim to the middle where the water is really high,” as the music electrifies in tow. The lyrics seem to explore reconnecting with the authentic “flow” of life as embodied in the river, rather than other frivolous considerations. When voices begin to chant “hand of god,” the listener can’t help but imagine themselves lying in a river with an arm extended to them. It thematically embodies Cave and Ellis inviting the listener to journey into the river with them with their first song on the album. The motif makes sense, as listeners wade through shallow pools of despair to deep surges of love or remorse. Cave and Ellis, in this way, reveal the amalgamated flow of thought and feeling constantly brimming just beneath the surface.
Though some at first glance may write off Cave and Ellis as too peculiar or abstract, the avid listener will recognize the deep wisdom imbued in every song. With thoughtful, poetic consideration and dedication to the expression of the authentic human spirit, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis will teach listeners something new every time they hit play on Carnage.