Review Summary: The Good Son is The Good Album.
Nick Cave is known by a sizeable amount of people as one of music's foremost doom mongers. To me at least he's not, rather he's the Australian Tom Waits.
The Good Son (sharing it's name with a film starring an evil Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood, maybe named after the album?) opens with a song partially in Brazilian, which to me conjures up Leonard Cohen. As often the case on the album, it's quite sparse, with just a piano, some drums and vibes, Nick Cave's voice and low in mix strings. In this case, there's the addition of some backup vocals. The title translates as something about the cross, possibly the first appearance of religious imagery here.
The title track opens with an altered version of the folk song "Another Man Done Gone". This song appears to be about son trying not to be forgotten by his family with other concerns, and again there's some strings, dramatic percussion and buried Blixa Bargeld guitar.
Sorrow's Child is a Scott Walker like piano song, following the albums usual instrumental sound with some nice backing vocals.
The Weeping Song is one of the most infectious songs ever to feature a German industrial musician singing like a foghorn thats been immersed in various gunk. It's also an example of the often forgotten humour in Nick Cave songs.
Father why are all the women weeping
They are all weeping for their men
Then why are all the men there weeping?
They are weeping baaaaaack at them
Maybe it's just down to Blixa Bargeld's delivery of the Father half of the song, but that and:
Why are all the children weeping
They are merely crying son
Oh are they only crying father
Yes true weeping is yeeeeeeet to come.
I've heard a lot about people commiting suicide to this song, but to me it's too infectious and funny to be able to kill myself to. This song is very sparse as usual, just percussion, piano, vibes and bass under the duet, but it still manages to sound expansive, like a Morricone score condensed into just over 4 minutes.
The Ship Song is one of the best love songs I've ever heard, sounding a lot like Leonard Cohen initially, building on the chorus to be almost Walker-ian. In the course of this song no animals were harmed, although a lot of dogs were set on Nick Cave in the course of it. It's another example of the slow build Cave is so adept at, there's even room for a vibraphone solo towards the end. Not many albums you can say feature both Blixa Bargeld and a vibraphone solo.
In fact just this one.
The next song The Hammer Song (he likes putting song at the end of titles, doesnt he?), starts with some blipping noises, and after every few lines Blixa interjects a weird echoey surf guitar line, and then the hammer comes down. At first the menace in the song is restrained just to his chomping at the bit lyrics and the recurring guitar, but as it goes on the song builds, with even the strings sounding strangely menacing. Basically from this song we find out he doesnt like being hit with a hammer (who does) and the Biblical imagery resurfaces in the snake handed angels.
Lament is a dry run for the later Boatman's Call album. Only here there's some weirdly menacing backing strings, and some Tom Waits like lyrics about jailhouse smiles and scarlett moons. I've never heard as much vibes as I have on this album.
The Witness Song initially sounds like Step Right Up being delivered over Why Can't I Be You by The Cure. It also showcases Nick Caves tendency to repeat himself, repeat himself, repeat himself. No one else gives so much detail in songs.."I ENTERED FROM THE EASTERN DOOR/SHE ENTERED THROUGH THE EASTERN DOOR!", and later he exits through the Eastern door and she exits by the WESTERN door. Hmm....anyway, this song seems to be an account of a particularly strange night with religious symbolism.
This song is almost gospel sounding, with the constant chant of the backing vocals and impatient clatter of the drums and percussion. Can I get an amen?
Lucy is an example of a Nick Cave song done better by someone else, in this case Shane Macgowan, whose voice suits the song better. It's a nice enough little lullaby closer, with some fantastic piano from Roland Wolf who gets an extra writing credit for it it's so good. This is a song that Radiohead took the cue from for Motion Picture Soundtrack, this song being like a particularly sincere, Scott Walker like retread of Goodnight by the Beatles, apart from being sung to a dead girl. This is Nick Cave remember, and after he's finished the song enters an instrumental coda very similar to Radiohead's later ending to Motion Picture Soundtrack.
This is a fantastically underrated album, one showing all shades of Cave.