It’s difficult to discuss Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ new studio album – divorced from its context; Cave’s fifteen year-old son passed away in 2014. In the face of such unimaginable loss, Skeleton Tree is a devastating, aching ode, both therapeutic and wounded. It’s also a remarkable album, one that is informed by its emotional heft and lifted by its human spirit. Among the album’s several gut-wrenching moments is the powerful “Rings of Saturn.”
The song creeps in like a low-lying fog, Cave stoic yet weary with backing “oooh-oooh’s” accenting the chorus. The song is a reminder of Cave’s great songwriting talents; he writes in generalities but sings in specificities, like on the chorus when he states, “This is the moment. This is exactly where she is born to be. Now this is what she does and this is what she is.” It’s a peaceful, centered moment, leaving you with a shocking feeling of belonging. But I think my favorite moment is when he openly questions, “I thought slavery had been abolished / How come it’s gone and reared its ugly head again?” It’s hard not be crushed by a moment like that, but it’s Cave who’s doing the heavy lifting. “Saturn” is beautiful in its monumental grief; the fog may linger but our hopes will rise above, hanging from the sky like those rings of Saturn.
Skeleton Tree is out now.