Letting the skeletons out
I have come to this album late because I could not face listening to it last year when it came out. I have a daughter, born one year before Cave's twins were. One of those twins, Arthur, fell to his death after stumbling over a cliff. Because I cannot conceive what it must be like to lose a child, I avoided the album.
Until now that is, almost six months later. I was inspired to watch it after watching "One more time with Feeling", the documentary that was made about Cave and the Bad Seeds.
This is a gorgeous album. The lushness and beauty are in stark contrast to the terrible death of Cave's son. Written prior to Arthur's death, as a premonition perhaps, one cannot fail to be moved by the words and emotion, which now seem so prescient.
Skeleton Tree reminds me of another album that documented how tragedy fell from the sky. The title song of Cave's album immediately made me think of the single, "Empty Sky" from Bruce Springsteen's album, "The Rising". In Cave's song, "Distant Sky" he sings, "Soon the children will be rising/will be rising/this is not for our eyes".
Springsteen wrote his album after hijackers rained death from the sky, onto the streets of New York and Washington on 9/11. The songs on both these albums are heavy with mortality and loss and are preoccupied with the sky as a source of tragedy. The sky is everywhere on Cave's album, it's in the lyrics and it is in the spaces between the vocals and the instruments.
Despite the fact that they both deal with immense tragedies, neither of these albums are depressing. None of Cave's songs are as upbeat as "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" and he never takes us to "Mary's Place" to have a party. Springsteen cannot help but approach the horror of the tragedy that was 9/11 with American optimism. Cave on the other hand invokes hope and redemption but his songs nudge you in that direction in a more reserved, antipodean way.