Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds Share “Wild God,” a Worthy Addition to Their Canon of Blunt and Bluesy Theology

On "Wild God," Nick Cave is not out to convert or influence any souls. Yet he seems intent on comforting them, or at least acknowledging his own awe at the tender and terrible mystery of life | Ian Allen, courtesy of the artist

In the 2013 book, Faith, Hope and Carnage, Nick Cave admits:I feel that instinctive, mysterious connection can have a deeper impact on the psyche of the listener. It feels as if it connects to the listener in a different way, as if we have stumbled upon the song and its implicit meaning together.” Culled from 40 hours of conversations with Irish critic Sean O’Hagan that took place during the same book, Cave also talks openly about grief, addiction and his complex yet certain relationship with Christianity.

Wild God,” the eponymous debut single from the Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ forthcoming and 18th studio album (out August 30), is a dense ballad that seems to exhort the listener to defy their own powerlessness in a song that stumbles toward perhaps the biggest of the big-ticket mortal issues: the topic of God. Like Cave’s best work, the implicit meaning is crested in allegory that sounds like a confessional.

The demographic of fans that are drawn to the now 66-year-old Cave runs the gamut from tweens to graying middle-aged listeners who have stuck with Cave through shared life passages. In the past decade, Cave survived the deaths of two of his sons: in 2015 his 15-year-old son Arthur died after falling from a cliff; in 2002 Cave’s 31-year-old son Jethro Lazenby died, whose cause of death has not been confirmed.

Cave’s delivery on the five-minute “Wild God” finds him invoking the talking blues of early ‘60s folk stylists, the melody of his vocal lines decaying into a plainspoken recitation. The Bad Seeds accompany him in subdued R&B form, as Cave rolls out impressions of the aforementioned god, who seems to inhabit and discard souls and places around the globe, more confused than capricious: “He a wild God searching for what all wild Gods are searching for.” The outro of “Wild God” features a gospel-like choir, an arrival that is inevitable. 

In June of 2023, Cave was interviewed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, where he spoke (as ever) candidly about surviving heroin addiction, grief and loss, and the g-word. A former choirboy, Cave acknowledges that he doesn’t “call himself a Christian” yet the stories of Christ always influenced him. “The idea of God has always felt like a direction; I would say. A direction taken,” explained Cave, acknowledging the difficultly in verbalizing such a personal and ineffable relationship. “It’s the only direction to take, because to take the opposite direction to that just doesn’t seem like a feasible way to continue with this thing: my life.”

Now with a music career spanning much of his life (50 years of which have been spent creating with fellow Bad Seed and lifelong cohort Mick Harvey), Cave is not out to convert or influence any souls. Yet he seems intent on comforting them, or at least acknowledging his own awe at the tender and terrible mystery of life. If that’s his direction, and surrender to his own “Wild God,” we remain better for it.

Wild God is out August 30 on Bad Seed via Play it Again Sam. Stream the first single, “Wild God,” here. Pre-order the album here.

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