Review Summary: An all encompassing, reality shattering, world stopping, time stopping piece, the distillation of grief in sound that unites its audiences in feeling absolutely everything and completley nothing, all at once or ever again.
Nick Cave has made a career of dissecting the human condition. The very essence of emotions and senses, love and death and how these overlap, have been explored, deconstructed and reproduced. Cave’s work, when contextualised within the cannon of popular music, has always confidently extolled a sense of fascination and knowledge of some of the base elements of humanity. Cave the man, along with his Bad Seed counterparts, express via Cave the publicly performative artist, theatrically expressed and conveyed the entire spectrum of feeling.
The Unimaginable personal tragedy that Cave experienced mid way through the process of ‘Skeleton Tree’ doesn’t so much hang over the record as weave it’s self deep into every sombre sinew of the 8 tracks. The air of confidence, of theatre, of knowledge has disappeared and Cave returns, fragile, exposed, uncertain and deep in grief. ‘Skeleton Tree’ is a record that bares all in a way that suggests it was produced less with ‘artistic decisions’ and more with instinctive necessity, some kind of attempted coping mechanism, sprawled across sparse arrangements of dense sounds, uncluttered yet overwhelming, an infinite horizon of inexpressible nothingness, hopelessness, the ultimate epitome of complete despair and the deep hurt and anger that accompanies it.
To attempt to write about this record in words, feels hollow, yet the music within inspires nothing but the desire to try. There’s something inescapable about the instinct to attempt to express and explain the wordless malaise that engaging with this record makes a listener feel. To review and rate ‘Skeleton Tree’ as another album in the cycle of time or attempt to explore the record in the traditional narrative framework feels wrong. Words and phrases like ‘album of the year’ or ‘masterpiece’ are apt, but feel crass. ‘Skeleton Tree’ is completley out of time and out of step with anything and everything else, it’s an all encompassing, reality shattering, world stopping, time stopping piece, the distillation of grief in sound that unites its audiences in feeling absolutely everything and completley nothing, all at once or ever again.