“Nothing really matters when the one you love is gone.” Music is an outlet for personal turmoil, an art that allows an individual to explore and seize their inner demons. Through Skeleton Tree, Nick Cave tackles personal grief and more, creating an eerily beautiful, deeply melancholic, 40 minutes of music. Despondency overwhelms the album: even the cover is a clue to the bleak outlook it has to offer. While the album was in its early stages, Nick Cave’s son died in a horrific accident, throwing the trajectory of the album onto a new but unsure course. The first line of the opening track, ‘Jesus Alone’, seems to address the album directly to Cave’s son, lamenting how “You fell from the sky”, and continuing this address throughout to the ballad-esque ‘I Need You’.
Cave’s expression of his grief and bewilderment lies in these addresses. There is little distinction sound-wise: the focus is very much lyrics over melody, Cave’s grief over the album’s commercial success. Fragility is reflected in Cave’s alternation between spoken word and raw – at times faltering – vocals. Simple melodies and a mix of piano and synthetic electronics create a sort of trance, the similarity of tracks giving the album the feel of an endless loop. Skeleton Tree’s sound has a supernatural feeling to it, with a wailing melody that is at times hypnotic.
However, as the album comes to a close, the sombre tone is elevated, becoming more optimistic and in-tune with the world. In expressing his vulnerability and fury, Nick Cave comes out looking a little stronger.
Photo: Rolling Stone.de