Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree


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 I claim no ownership whatsoever.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Jesus Alone

This week’s big musical event is arguably the release of the new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album Skeleton Tree out on September 9 and its accompanying film One More Time With Feeling released the day before as a one-night-only event on select theaters around the world.

Less than a week ago a single was released called Jesus Alone. A brooding track, filled with a feverish, buzzing guitar, pensive piano and a string section.

“You believe in god, but you get no special dispensation for this belief now”, Nick sings, and continues “You’re a distant memory in the mind of your creator, don’t you see?”, sounding like someone whose God, what- or whoever that may be, has abandoned him. And following the death of Nick’s teenage son last year, these feelings and ideas are very easy to understand. He touches upon this in the trailer released in August.  ”What happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic that you just change?”, he asks. ”You change from the known person to an unknown person. So that when you look at yourself in the mirror, you recognize the person that you were, but the person inside the skin is a different person.”

To me, this is easily one of the very best songs of the year, and it bodes extremely well for the album.