The making of Nick Cave’s latest album “Skeleton Tree” occurred during a complicated time in the singer/songwriter’s life. A majority of the tracks on the album were already recorded when Cave received the news that his son, Arthur, tragically lost his life. After the accident, Cave went back to the studio, rewriting most of the songs and releasing one of the most heartbreaking albums of the year.
Nick Cave is known for intricate wordplay and use of metaphors; while his son isn’t directly mentioned in any of these songs, the main themes of loss and sorrow over losing him are still prevalent. On “Jesus Alone,” he parallels a plane crashing in the fields of Adur to his son falling from a cliff, leading to his death. “Magneto” mention his anger and confusion towards strangers giving him condolences, while “I Need You” shows his emptiness without his son in his life. As the album goes on, the mood of the album gets darker and more depressing, as the instrumentation gets increasingly spacy and hollow, and Cave’s vocals get increasingly more broken and sorrowful. However, the last two songs of the album “Distant Sky” and “Skeleton Tree” offer a bittersweet ending to the album, showing Cave moving on from the seemingly unending grief that his son’s death has brought about.
“Skeleton Tree” is only eight songs long, but it feels just right in terms of length, covering the heartbreak and eventual reprieve to perfection. It may not be an easy listen, but it’s definitely a rewarding one.