Nick Cave is first and foremost a poet and a story teller. As a singer, he has the power to channel the raw emotions from the words on a page and transport them into the fabric of song, makeing him one of the most influential artists of the last three decades. The effect is such that it envelops you in the story, making you empathize with their different characters and in the case of ‘Skeleton tree’ feel the very real pain of grief and mourning. Although this expressive device is not something new for Cave to employ, the emotional impact heard in ‘Skeleton tree’ is something different.
In July 2015, Nick Cave’s son tragically died after accidentally falling off a cliff in Brighton, England. It’s hard to imagine recording an album at the same time as coming to terms with your son’s death, but that is exactly what he has done. Facing the overwhelming gravity of the situation, Cave has purposefully captured a moment in his life that everyone encounters and it’s hard to ignore the reality of it all when listening to Skeleton Tree.
Although the album does not deal explicitly with the death of his son, it does directly address the concepts of death and mourning. With the opening lyrics of the album “You fell from the sky, Crash landed in a field”, it’s hard to find a moment to detached yourself from the underlying sadness of the record. But then again, I don’t think you’re meant too. Musically and thematically, the album seems to flow from start to finish through the five stages of grief, (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). At least by the final song ‘Skeleton Tree’ provides a sense of optimism lifting you up from the state of hopelessness and depression, as if it’s a reflection on the better times and memories after loss.
The Bad Seeds approach to songwriting as usual, has provided a stirring cinematic bed to support Cave through his quivering and tormented vocal. There isn’t a single musical moment that has not been thoughtfully placed to assist the story, which all ads to the misery. As the atmospheric synth’s in ‘Magneto’ sound so thin that the vocal could almost fall through it to the oscillating fuzz in Jesus alone that is so filled with anger it feels like could lose control at any second.
This album more of an artistic expression of grief than it is an album to meant to enjoy. Although its construction is eerily beautiful and should be shared, you are much more likely to revisit this when you want to feel an intimate something than to revisit it with company. But it’s that intangible feeling that makes this record something that stands out from the ordinary. No matter how dark it is.
How It Stacks Up
3. 9 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊
Rings Of Saturn
Girl In Amber
I Need You
Bad Seed Ltd