“I called out, I called out
Right across the sea
But the echo comes back in, dear
And nothing is for free.”
To write about something knowing the circumstance, even if you are a huge fan, proceeds to give you an unsettling feeling inside. If you’ve listened to Skeleton Tree, you may have felt uneasy and as if you’re experience grief and loss. If anything, this record, teaches you how to feel or how to be aware of how you feel. For me, that’s something I have always taken from Nick Cave’s music. But this time around, something isn’t sitting right. It isn’t sitting right because we know the circumstance. There’s comfort in this record but there’s a wealth of pain that is striking.
I grew up on Nick Cave’s music. Boys Next Door to his sixteenth record with The Bad Seeds, every record has had some impact on me. It’s been there when a person has, and hasn’t been there. It’s a safety net and a handbook for life because I just never seem to know what I’m doing. Writing about Skeleton Tree is tough. I’ve never written about a record I didn’t love. This is a record I love, that’s obvious. I just find it hard to allow myself to have any solid opinion because of the heart of it. The lyrics are gorgeous, and the lyrics justify once more, why Nick Cave is my favourite song-writer of all time. He doesn’t write songs, let’s be honest. They aren’t songs. They go beyond that, they go beyond being bodies of art. Beyond being 4 minute symphonies and 6 minute wonders. Genius. It’s the only word to describe him.
Jesus Alone was the first song we heard from Skeleton Tree. When I heard it, I knew in the pit of my stomach that on 9th September 2016 I would not be listening to a record that sits easy and fits perfectly amongst my collection. This is one that falls into sacred listening. I’ll gladly talk about this record with anyone, but by no means would I want to listen to with anyone around me. It’s a record you need to be alone with. You need to be completely and utterly alone.
Girl In Amber has lines that are just nothing short of painful but absolutely beautiful. It’s not always what Nick says but how he does so. The pain in “Don’t touch me” is so raw. We’ve all felt something so terrible, and the thought of being comforted hurts more. You don’t want any form of physical contact, but you give in to it because sometimes that is all there is. That’s all that can fix it.
I’ve listened to Skeleton Tree enough times now to say that Magneto possess my favourite lyrics. My heart broke when I heard this, “Oh, the urge to kill somebody was basically overwhelming. I had such hard blues down there in the supermarket queues. And I had a sudden urge to become someone, someone like you.” This song is one of the heaviest on the records and is so gripping and heart-breaking. The more I listen to it, the more I find certain parts to relate to. It does not make for easy listening, and it isn’t a record you play in the background to kill some time. The complete opposite.
I’ve always been drawn to the way Nick writes about love and religion. I’m not a religious person, but I love the way in which he writes about God and what might be above and below us. I love the way he writes about love in a beautiful way that shows its good and ugly side. I Need You shows this exceptionally fragile side of his words that makes it one of the best moments on the record. Take the song however you want. I’ve not made my mind up. The words will break the toughest of hearts, and part of you squirms when you listen to it because of how painful it is. It is nearly 6 minutes of desperation and pleading of the heart. His voice has this different tone to it, a tone I’ve not heard from him before. You can sense the grief, and part of me doesn’t want this to be my favourite off Skeleton Tree because of how open and vulnerable it is. But when your hero can make something like this, you feel less alone. However, I may say it is my favourite but I still can’t listen to the whole song. There’s a part that just ruins me, and I have to move on to the next song.
In a way, Skeleton Tree feels like the stages of grief. Distant Sky gives you hope. Else Torp’s vocals add something quite haunting to the song, and it works so well. Her voice and Nick’s- it is a perfect match that adds comfort and reassurance.
In under 40 minutes, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds take us on a journey through emotions we all wish to never feel. But, it’s inevitable. We will all experience a loss of some kind, and if you are one of the lucky ones who haven’t- this record will easily make you feel as if you have. I think if I had watched the film before listening to the record, maybe I’d say more of worth. I never really wanted to write about Skeleton Tree. It doesn’t feel right in me doing so, but there was something at the back of my mind that needed to get this out at length. I messaged my uncle earlier about the record, and we both agreed that Nick Cave can do no wrong. Irrespective of the circumstance, it’s their sixteenth record and it’s brilliant. It is painful to listen to, but the way Nick does it makes you feel like he is stood next to you as the words fall into your ear.
The title track closes the record, and ends with echoes of “And it’s alright now.” Music is a solid source of security and a way of coping. Both for the person creating it, and the person listening to it. Skeleton Tree evokes this to the very core. I could go on and on about how much I love the record and how much I love him, but every single song reinforces my love for Nick Cave and his words. They’ve got me through hell and back. I can only hope that this record has done