Reviews Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Skeleton Tree

When it was announced that Nick Cave was releasing a new album Skeleton Tree to accompany the release of his documentary One More Time With Feeling, it felt decidedly unnatural for a couple of reasons – first and foremost, marketing tie-ins don’t really come to mind, when it comes to an artist like Cave. And two, it was all coming on the heels of an extraordinarily tragic period for Cave following the tragic death of his son in 2014.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, this writer has not seen the film, but all indications are that it covers the period after the death of Cave’s son as well as the final recording sessions for the album. I won’t presume to make any assumptions as to the nature of the lyrics in correlation to the tragedy as the timeline would indicate much of Cave’s vocals were recorded before this time, yet remarkably, Skeleton Tree can stand as Cave’s most personal, introspective and emotional album to date.

Opening track “Jesus Alone” is very similar in tone to previous album Push The Sky Away – so much so, it almost sounds like a remnant from those recording sessions – a dark dense arrangement that while not indicative of the rest of the album, serves as a fitting harbinger for the road ahead.

The following track, “Rings of Saturn” spins us around to what could arguably be described as ‘upbeat’ – at least by Cave standards. Followed once again by the unexpected. Nick Cave has always portrayed himself – either purposely or unwittingly, as a strongly masculine figure in the non-traditional sense. Strong and dark, showing few signs of weakness, even with all his wounds on display for all of us to hear - but here, on “Girl in Amber”, he’s never sounded more vulnerable – his voice wavering and cracking, almost as if he was singing through tears.

Elsewhere, of course, tracks like “Distant Sky”, “Magneto” and “Anthrocene” showcase more of the haunted beauty we’ve come to expect from the man, but with no less emotional impact. The former, featuring Danish soprano Else Torp is simply magnificent. Skeleton Tree would seem to be (and most understandably so), a transitional album and it will be very interesting to see where Cave’s music will go from here but in all the darkness there’s always the faintest glimmer of light, and on the title track which closes the album, Cave leaves us with that light  - glowing white like fire. That glimmer of life and hope that refuses to burn out. Warm and reassuring, letting us know it’s alright now. It's alright now...

8.8 / 10Kevin Fitzpatrick
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8.8 / 10

8.8 / 10

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