Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

skeleton

What do you do when something vital is mercilessly torn from you? How are you supposed to act when the universe rips your heart out of your chest and replaces it with…nothing in particular? How do you deal with complete and utter loss? You can shut down. Retreat back inside. Paint the windows black. Destroy your phone. Sew your mouth shut and cut both ears off. Build a massive wall. Communicate only with your memories and your ghosts. Or…you can clench your fists and stoically return to whatever it is that you do best..  That is what Nick Cave has done. He went back to working on the album he was halfway through when tragedy struck last July.

I was an electrical storm on the bathroom floor, clutching the bowl

Oh, the urge to kill somebody was basically overwhelming
I had such hard blues down there in the supermarket queues

No one would ever have blamed him if he had retired after this. How do you go on? Few would.

And if you want to bleed, just bleed

And if you want to leave, don’t breathe

But he didn’t retire. He didn’t shut down. He elevated. And then came out of the studio with what could very well be the best album of his career.

It’s an album immersed in grief. The lyrics are scenarios stacked on top of each other, forming wholes, both logical and illogical, abstract, yet perfectly lucid. There’s no real narrative, just like Nick says in the accompanying film. The scenarios speak of loss and of existence crumbling under your feet, while at the same time remaining the same.

The song, the song it spins, the song, it spins, it spins no more
The phone, it rings, it rings and you won’t stay

I knew the world it would stop spinning now since you’ve been gone
I used to think that when you died you kind of wandered the world
In a slumber til your crumbled were absorbed into the earth
Well, I don’t think that any more

I am sawn in half and all the stars are splashed across the ceiling

The music perfectly matches the lyrics. The synths, the guitars, the strings, the percussion and those strange rhythms that sometimes pop up form atmospheric soundscapes and melodies that perfectly encapsulates Nick’s fractured poetry.

Then there’s the penultimate track Distant Sky, a duet with Danish soprano Else Torp. A song so angelic and classical in its sound that it feels like it’s always been around. Sprung from earth or washed down from the sky in some heavy ancient rain. This is catharsis.

Let us go now, my darling companion
Set out for the distant skies
See the sun, see it rising
See it rising, rising in your eyes

The last track (which is also the title track) speaks of acceptance. Your heart may be torn out of your chest and you may never stop bleeding, but it’s alright. It has to be alright. Otherwise everything stops.

And I called out, I called out
Right across the sea
I called out, I called out
That nothing is for free

And it’s alright now
And it’s alright now
And it’s alright now

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds has made the album of the year. It’s going to be excrutiatingly tough for those who want to challenge them for the title.

Buy Skeleton Tree from CDON, Amazon or Nick’s webpage, or listen to it on Spotify.

Picture retrieved from http://www.nickcave.com I claim no ownership whatsoever.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

  1. It’s a remarkable album, even if there aren’t many tracks that will likely make it onto my Nick Cave playlist. This is defintely not the same man who sang “Jack the Ripper” or “Tupelo”, or “Deanna”. There are no direct or explicit references to violence and death here and certainly none of his wicked sense of humor (like when he so hilariously concluded the “Murder Ballads” album with a “We Are the World”-style cover of “Death is Not the End”). This Nick Cave is all sad. His larger than life stage personae has been reduced to a grief stricken dad singing about how there’s no dispensation for our belief in the gods that forgot us and died before we did. Any Nick Cave is great Nick Cave but this shit is truly heartbreaking.

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