The first time I saw Nick Cave live it was in a grungy basement club. He was either too stoned or not stoned enough. In any case the man showed very limited connection to anything happening around him. Like for example the songs being played. Truth be told it is amazing he recovered from that state back in 1980something when I saw him, even more so that he became a success. And I am really really happy I have never listened to him since.
I forced myself to listen to the entire album. “Skeleton Tree” does not put me in a good mood. Nick Cave reminds of a friend at high school who always wore way too smart clothes and insisted on painting only with black ink. He refused to do anything normal. If he painted something that looked recognizable he would mess it up. If he said something approaching what you expected, he added something irrelevant. This album is exactly that. Cave drones like the failed poet that he is. If you like Leonard Cohen you will love this. He recites his prose and makes sure it doesn’t really rhyme or even fit in the rhythm. As soon as it starts sounding normal he goes off on a tangent. If we didn’t know better, we would assumed he is stoned silly.
The real problem with this album is the music. Or more specifically the completely boring background tracks to Cave’s rants. Perhaps the only half decent attempt where he bothers to try and fit with what the rest of the band is doing is this:
On a good day you will listen to that entire track and even half like it. But the rest of the album is much much worse. And on tracks like “Distant Sky” it is well, truly pathetic. The man can’t decide if he is a devout Christian, a lost soul or a fanatic atheist. The music is even worse in lack of positioning. The choir and female backing tracks make your local school kids singing seem awesome.
That friend of mine from school is now a famous composer and doing really well for himself. Personally I find his music banal and generally ripped off from others. But hey, like Nick Cave, he is a success and the women love him. Just goes to show. Some girls will go crazy about this verse or the other in the album, fans will look for references and try to figure out whether the supermarket he mentions is Heaven or just the local 7/11. Nick Cave is not a “rock legend” as some describe him. He is a second rate musician, a third rate poet and a terrible songwriter. If you like the words . ask him to do performance art at some cultural event, accompanied by a tuna, a trombone and a tit. He has no place on a CD or near a band. It almost makes me wish that night in 1980something in the basement Nick Cave had decided to just give up.