Nick Cave has been weaving tales of woe and tragedy for almost forty years.
Skeleton Tree is what happens when that tragedy and woe become real. This is an album informed by – nay, born from – a trauma so deep that, as Cave himself says in the One More Time With Feeling documentary, it “destroys the creative process”.
This is the starkest and most desolate album Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have ever produced. All of the familiar traits of the Bad Seeds – the menace, the ferocity, the jaunty excursions into theatre, vaudeville, caricature and dark humour – all are replaced by a haunting sorrow, a harrowing sadness that pervades every moment; the opening lyric is soul-crushing. The instrumentation is stripped back to almost nothing but loops, percussion and the slightest hint of keys and the occasional sad surge of strings. More than ever, the emphasis is on Cave’s voice, the broken voice of a broken man reeling from an unthinkable tragedy. This isn’t so much a work to be enjoyed as one to be overwhelmed by, to endure, to share the pain of. Almost every emotion but grief has been swept away, and yet ‘Distant Sky’ offers a beacon of hope and beauty as the breathtaking vocals of Else Torp cut through the gloomy rumble like a scythe and for a few brief minutes Skeleton Tree soars above despair.
This is most human and honest album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds since The Boatman’s Call, and surpasses even that. More than a tribute to his lost child, Skeleton Tree is a monument to grieving, to raw human emotion.
Be prepared. This is one of the bleakest, most moving and sadly beautiful albums you are ever likely to hear.
1. Jesus Alone
2. Rings of Saturn
3. GIrl in Amber
6. I Need You
7. Distant Sky
8. Skeleton Tree