Rob Jones
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds return and it is on the back of the ultimate tragedy as in 2015 the band leader lost his teenage son Arthur. The youngster fell from a Brighton cliff on July 15 as Cave was working on fresh material. The new movie One more time with Feeling possesses the scars and unleashes the grief of this sad, distressing fatality. This shattering occurrence has taken its toll on the post punk icon but there are trains of thought that ideas for the new Skeleton Tree long player were already in place prior to the desperate death. However, the 2016 record displays a level of mourning and sadness that could easily encapsulate the departure.

It is not a straightforward task to go down either the before and after paths such is the renowned intensity of a Cave record. As is commonly known, his delving in to the darker is a supreme skill that is the writing domain of the  former Birthday Party guru. Nonetheless, such personal grief cannot avoid taking its toll on any one especially the likes of Cave. Skeleton Tree for any amount of reasons that is only known to its main man is a sparse, slender work where tunes of beauty are coated with lyrics of the best of the albatross as demons surface at a variety of junctures. There is a  fragility evident and that comes through in a whirlpool of words.

The funereal feel to the proceedings weds itself to  the minimalist arrangements and the longing to turn the clock back and recapture a family past that was more fulfilling can be detected. The lines can be plucked out of the songs at random ‘With my voice I am calling you’,  ‘You are a distant memory in the mind of your creator, don’t you see’, and I knew the world hit would stop spinning since you’ve been gone’.  There is not a better arranger of this format and Cave with band col league Warren Ellis is capable of the most astonishing tunes and production. To add to which the senior Seed then adds those pearls of prose. The regular sonic soldiers are up to the mark with their playing prowess and the guests such as vocalist Else Torp only add to the majesty and mystery.

One can imagine in a bygone era the likes of Frank Sinatra calling Cave in to add a different slant to their repertoire. In the Ghetto came from the direction of Elvis but there could have been a few more volleyed back. It may be a case of more Nick (‘not’ Mack) the Knife-but, this Australian aural ambassador could have responded with aplomb.

Skeleton Tree has fruit on its branches and the eight tracks will certainly give you food for thought. As regards the loss our hearts go out to his family and we offer our  thanks for the songs that go with us-but as he so eloquently says: ‘There are powers at play more forceful than we’.