Nick Cave is still with the Bad Seeds and Nick Cave is still making new music with some frequency, both which are comforting. He released the critically acclaimed “Push the Sky Away” record in 2013, which included a tour. I don’t see any tour dates for Skeleton Tree yet but that could, hopefully, change.
No one can accuse Nick Cave for being upbeat, especially now. The result of this low point is a slow,methodical record, really slow. There are no particular song structures as it comes off as one big Avant-garde piece with several sections. The production is aces as Nick is alongside his old cohorts Warren Ellis and Nick Launay. They create the mystifying, atmospheric, soundscapes that serve as Nick’s canvas for his verbal magic. The magic of which I speak is a dark magic, a black magic almost. You see, Nick’s 15-year-oldon Arthur, one of the twins, died from an accidental cliff fall during the recording of this album. It is said that the lyrics were all but finished at the time of Arthurs death and Nick went in and touched them up. Who knows how much he amended, but his lyrics and delivery come off extra serious and even more so painful to this writer. At some points it seems as he has almost given up. As he sings he seems to be in a grip of a higher power at points, a stream of consciousness thing. Like Jim Morrison or Lou Reed on one of their better nights. Whatever Nick is singing about you believe him. Whether he’s telling you “They told us our gods would outlive us” or “If you want to bleed, just bleed” you trust him, you are all in.
In true Nick Cave fashion he does a quality duet on the song “Distant Sky” with Danish soprano Else Torp that will elicit both chills & tears. We need those tears though as that what helps up move on and let go. Which Nick & Else captures perfectly.
All is not lost, though. The title track closes out the record with a beautiful, uplifting flourish and yields what is missing from the rest of the sessions, what is missing from Nick, & what is missing from the world.
Writers Note: I haven’t listened to Nick Cave in ages so I went back and revisited some of his stuff before listening to his current record. I suggest you do the same. Also, if you want to dig deeper, check out the film One More Time with Feeling. It documents the recording of Skeleton Tree, in the aftermath of the death of Nick Cave’s 15-year-old son Arthur.