It’s rare for a musician, or group of musicians to still have noteworthy things to say on their sixteenth album, but for perennial avant rock and rollers Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, all it takes is the pain in your heart to explore some of the darker terrains the band has ever wandered to. The background on the lonesomeness filling the album is a theme that cuts to the core of a human: The loss of a child unexpectedly. I won’t go into the details, but during the work on Skeleton Tree, Cave’s son was lost to the world of the dead.
This knowledge helps to understand the record in a more heartfelt way. Over and over through the record, theme’s of loss, regret and the knowledge that someone close has left your world are mentioned. Some are more obvious than others, such as Cave singing “With my Voice I am calling you,” over the run-time of album opener Jesus Alone. Track after track is stark and pale, and except for track two the album never get’s even remotely upbeat or fast paced. Tragically this is an album of profound loss but it also helps to heal. We’ve all lost, and many times music has saved me from darkness, but even though I’m very happy in my current stance in life, you can still relate to the palpable pain permeating through the record.
Girl in Amber, track three is perhaps the saddest. With only Cave’s voice, a somber tone runs throughout, and it’s almost like listening to an album set in the afterlife by a person who doesn’t belong there. Trust me, this isn’t an album for a dinner party, or any party for that matter, but it’s one of the better tragic records I’ve ever heard. For me it’s up there with “Hospice” by the Antlers as a profoundly full record of music indentured to loss and pain. It’s also another solid example of why after so many years, this band is still continuing to make music that can be many things, whether filled with anger, sadness, or in your face aggression and swagger. Give it a listen, but make sure you don’t have anything to do the rest of the day.