Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Skeleton Tree”
Nick Cave’s new album is closely related to the death of his son Arthur, who died falling of the cliffs in Brighton last year. On “Skeleton Tree” bleak, ossified soundscapes that seem to reflect the emotional tensions alternate with sacral-balladic material that never really resolves the strain, but makes it more accessible, bearable. There is a similar tension to Nick Cave’s style of presentation that ranges between metric free speech song and a form of singing that appears instantaneously soulful. Cave’s attitude displays its full potential as a result of the words always are perpendicular to the music that seems to be at another time and place then the singer. Time and time again the songs elude Cave. When hearing the album one witnesses how the singer tries to catch up to the music and again and again accomplishes to find his place in it, if only as transitory traveler. These moments of exposed loss of control and being outside oneself yield an intensity that establishes extreme closeness. The manner in which “I Need You” is sung is directly touching and completely disarming. By endowing the semantically exhausted words with an exalted quality through Cave’s attitude all existing pop lyric stereotypes are being transcended. In this regard “Skeleton Tree” also equates a triumph of sublimation.
It is, of course, not unproblematic to listen to this record – sometimes one considers oneself close to onlookers at a traffic accident. The question arises if someone has to die before you might get moved by music. A horrible thought. In the early 70s Keith Richard said in an Interview with Nick Kent, that Bob Dylan had to get himself into an emotionally vulnerable situation to return to making records as magnificent as the ones he mad in the mid 60s. In the film “One More Time With Feeling” that documents the recording process of “Skeleton Tree” Cave denies the theory that a traumatic experience is beneficial for the creative process. You should actually not forget that, beside being a mourning process taken from real life, the album at hand is art based on a modus of fictionalisation (also referenced by the film’s credits). Although you don’t seem to be sitting in the first row, but on the singer’s lap.
(Translation by Denise Oemcke)