Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd., September 9th, 2016)

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I want to start this review quoting what a dear friend of mine told me a few days ago. We were talking about my problems with depression and anxiety and about I am used to judge myself always in a negative way. I always consider myself as I was guilty. I am a sinful man but I couldn’t actually figure out about what’s exactly my crime.

He was of course inviting me to be much more indulgent with myself and then he told me something I will possibly never forgive, even though I couldn’t actually be able to totally comprehend it. He just told me, ‘Listen to me, man. Do you really think that our ordinary lives are much better than yours. Me, I’m talking about myself, you know, step by step you will be able to comprehend and to embrace completely life. I forgave myself because I didn’t become a cow-boy, an astronaut, a rockstar, everything I wanted to be when I was only a child.’

I often make a comparison between what’s actually the rock’n’roll music and a ‘rockstar’ and what it’s actually regret, reconsideration, redemption. This is actually because I consider that rock and roll music has got a very important role in my life. So it is probably like a kind of religion. Oh, I don’t pretend that rock and roll was going to give me moral or ethical rules and behaving. I just probably pretend to not be left alone. I don’t want to be alone and on other hand I pretend to be myself completely but I really don’t know who I am, so… Things get complicated.

 What, who is actually a rockstar? And is rock and roll eventually going to save our lives? Sonic Boom wrote, ‘Rock’n’Roll Is Killing My Life’ (‘Spectrum, 1990), Singapore Sling, ‘Life Is Killing My Rock’n’Roll’ (‘Life Is Killing My Rock’n’Roll’, 2004), Lou Reed just said, ‘bout Jenny, that her life was saved by rock and roll.

For example, I consider Lou Reed as the greatest rockstar ever. Why? Because he appearently has got a great ego, and he had of course, but the reality was that he was a man with many contradictions. Do you consider he was always telling you the truth, when he was singing his songs? Come on. ‘Transformer’, ‘Berlin’, ‘Coney Island Baby’, ‘Rock and Roll Heart’, ‘Growing Up In Public’, more and more, how many things contained in these album tell the truth about Lou Reed and about he really was. He wasn’t that average guy he pretended to be as he sang in a famous song contained in ‘The Blue Mask’, but he wasn’t that extreme rockstar he tried to show us for the most of his life. He was a ‘loner’, the fierce unsuitable son of a Jewish accountant and despite the fact he declared that his only God was the rock’n’roll, ‘The obscure power that change your life,’ probably he never really figured out.

Nick Cave has probably (surely) been since now the greatest rockstar of the last thirty years. He is still the greatest rockstar around. He is because he has got a great personality, he has got fascination and he has got the presence. He always showed himself like he was a damned, he sang about love and about death, about life and about murder and crime. He has always looked like he was unreachable and noone could deny two or three things: he is a great songwriter, he is a terrible fucking rock and roll and blues vocalist, he is charismatic like a few in the history of music and as consequence along his carreer he has always been accompained by great musicians that have got a great personality and charisma themselves too.

Nick2Who really Nick Cave is? We know everything about him. He made in practice everything through the years to show us all his skills as singer and songwriter, as a musician, as a writer, as a screenwriter and as an actor. His figure has always looked so strong and heavy characterized. He looked like a wolf, like a warlock, howling and screaming on the scenes all around the world. He’s always looked like a motherfucker. And as consequence he for first has practiced a sofrt of cult of his personality. He celebrated himself and he looked like a God. In this sense, with the documentary musical drama ‘20.000 Days on Earth’ (co-written and directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard), premiered in-competition in the ‘World Cinema Documentary Competition’ at 2014 Sundance Film Festival, that depicts a fictitious 24-hour period in his life prior to and during the recording of his 2013 album ‘Push the Sky Away’, he reached his maximum moment of auto-celebration and strengthen much more his imagine to the audience. He also joked about plans to erect a gold statue of himself in his hometown of Warracknabeal, based on a foot-high scale model which, according to Cave, features him naked on a rearing horse.

And here it comes ‘Skeleton Tree’. His sixteenth studio album released with The Bad Seeds and the follower of the acclaimed, but in my opinion insufficient ‘Push the Sky Away’, was recorded in several studios in Brighton, France and London and produced by Nick Cave himself, Warren Ellis (that in practice composed all the musics) and Nick Launay.

What about his last album. I read that it hasn’t been so much appreciated and that generally it is considered as a different record from the others. Someone told me, ‘It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.’ And probably things couldn’t actually be different, because in practice the album’s lyrics are all about themes of loss and death, and despite the fact he never mentions him, this particularly in relation to the death of Cave’s son Arthur, who ended tragically last year after falling from a cliff.

Of course we are talking about something really personal and about something I guess it’s actually impossible to give a mark, as it is usual to do with in practice everything in the nowday society. On the other hand it is impossible to talk about this record without considering what actually happened in the life of Nick Cave after this that we could undoubtly define as a tragedy.

The album is consequently also permeated by religious contents, but this have always been themes recurrent into his life and into his musical production and into his writings. The release was also accompained by ‘One More Time Feeling’, a documentary film about the aftermath of Cave’s son’s death and the recording process of ‘Skeleton Tree’, that began in the late 2014.

And ok, it’s a very different album from the previous releases. Much more minimal and with the incorporation of elements of electronica and ambient music and the extensive use of synthesizers, drum machine and loops. The album it’s finally what we could define a mix of avant-garde music with the long tradition of rock and roll music and especially what are actually the contents of blues and gospel music. The structures of the songs have got any standard at all. The complete album is in practice an elegy in which the fundamental contents are of course Cave’s lyrics and his voice that appears less furious than in the past, but adopering a particular way of singing that we could define almost redundant because of the words rolling over one with the others, he finally realise in transmits his sufference and involving all the audience in something that it is much more than a commemoration, and it probably it is. But it is also a celebration. A celebration of life made by a man who someone has always considered like an hero, someone who pretended himself to be an hero, but that in the end has always been a man and in this sense, here and now, for the first time he is really looking for a concrete contact with the others. He wants to touch himself and he wants to touch all the others who are all around him, just to know that they are real. That he is real.

Nick-Cave-and-Warren-Ellis-654x404For the occasion, Bad Seeds are Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey at the bass and the ethernal Thomas Wydler at drums. Jim Sclavunos also is in the rost, so long as the guitarist George Vjestica. Else Torp, a Danish soprano from Roskilde, sings in ‘Distant Sky’, one of the most touching songs of the album. Perhaps one of the most istitutional, with the grace and elegance of ‘Girl In Amber’ and the title track. Even if we have to consider that all the tracks have got a certain dissonance, atmospheres are no completely defined.

‘Magneto’ begins with what we could consider as a monologue or a sort of prayer, an invitation and then ends where everything became blur and confusion, everything it is so fluid and it seems like we were in state of sospension (‘Rings of Saturn’, the bluesy tribalist ‘Anthrocene’). Then finally we have ‘Jesus Alone’ (with some back echoes of the firstly Bad Seeds) and ‘I Need You’, two moving episodes in the history of the rock and roll music and two of the greatest songs you will hear this year and two of the greatest song Nick Cave has ever composed.

Nick_CaveConsiderations about this record are actually discordant. Of course there’s a certain type of critic that always acclaimed every records released by who are the greatest rockstar around. Think for example to ‘Rolling Stone’ or similar. On the other hand there’s who acclaimed this record because what was the recent happenings in Cave’s life and the loss of his son Arthur and there’re also people who consider you couldn’t probably really make an album about a thing like this or in any case after a so tragic happening. For some others, on the other hand, the album is simply shit or anyway insignificant and not a true album of Nick Cave. Someone it is difficult to consider into his career and as a continuation of his way as a singer and songwriter. Someone could probably have ask himself, ‘Where’s Nick Cave.’ And I would like to imagine that in the last group there was actually Nick Cave himself. We, everyone of us and himself for first, pretended that he had to be a rockstar. But being a rockstar it means at the same time to be acclaimed by everyone who is around you and at the same time to be crucified. You’re like Jesus. You’re a God and at the same time you’re just a man and you’re not so different from everyone else. There’s no competition. We could live our life together as a community and we could share our moment of grace and our moment of sufference.

Nick1I guess that manys hadn’t really understand what are actually the contents of this record, myself I possibly wrote a lot of shit, and why it is the best album released by Nick Cave from a very long time and a unique episode in his full career. Thre greatness of this record, in fact, stands exactly in the fact that he has not just to do with Nick Cave himself but also with me, with you, with everyone of us.

That’s about the meaning of life. Listen. Yesterday evening I was back late from work. Walking along the road there was a church and the priest was out on the steps of the entering speaking at a microphone while all the women and men where standing and the shadow of the statue of Christ the Redeemer was over them. A guy died because an overdose and the priest was speaking about the value of life pointing his finger to who takes drugs and much more to who sells it, while the drug dealers were standing on their scooters smoking at the other angle of the squadre. A preacher of God in his own little room at the street level was singing his song of redemption and despair and his glory to Jesus. The old man was lying on the ground. You couldn’t exactly told how much old he actually is. He was completely drunk. I stopped and helped him to sit with his shoulders back to the wall. I ask him if it was everything right. He asked me for a cigarette and we had a cigarette together before I get home. I came up the stairs slowly and I opened the door. I put away my shoes and I get some food out from the fridge and I slowly eat while I was distractly watching a movie on TV. I felt so alone and I get soon asleep on the armchair and I sleeped all night until the moment arrived in which the sun raised again and a new morning started.

 Vote: 9/10
You can also read this rewiev at machchapuchchare
Precedente Tobacco - Sweatbox Dynasty (Ghostly International, August 19th, 2016) Successivo Virginia Wing - Forward Constant Motion (Fire Records, November 11th, 2016)

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