It's impossible to fully appreciate this 16th studio album from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds without the tragic context that is the
, during its production, of Cave's teenage son.
No matter how dark, how touching and personal their music already is, how much it gets under your skin and gnaws away at your bones, this dreadful background to the album can't help but magnify it all.
Skeleton Tree, like 2013's Push The Sky Away, is a grower. But it won't take multiple listens for you to hear the emotion in Cave's imperfect vocals. Matched with the odd rhythm changes on standout track I Need You, it gives the impression of a mind in turmoil, if not great pain. "Nothing really matters when the one you love is gone," he sings.
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From the menacing opener Jesus Alone to the beautifully melancholy closing title track, Skeleton Tree is a stunner.
The symmetry in these two tracks alone - Cave sings of calling out in both songs, "the echo comes back empty" - is enough to give you shivers, and that's before hearing the last lines repeated "and it's all right now".
■The album is accompanied by the film One More Time With Feeling, which mixes performances with interviews and footage examining the heartbreaking backdrop to the album's recording.