Now that the weather is a bit cooler, I’m looking to begin amping up my run workouts beginning with a bit more continuous running than I have the last month or so. It’s just been too damn hot so that after 10 minutes or so, I’m done and need to walk. However, I need to begin limiting these walking recovery sessions and get ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning back into the routine of, well, running. And while my pace today is nothing to get excited about that’s the goal today.
I also have a new album to listen to as well, the new album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, ‘Skeleton Tree‘.
This 16th album by the infamous “Doomer n’ Gloomer” Cave, began its journey in late 2014 at Retreat Studios, Brighton, with further sessions later at La Frette Studios, France in the autumn of 2015. Afterwards, it was mixed at AIR Studios, London in early 2016 and eventually hit the shelves exactly one week ago.
The album has been hailed as an unflinching exploration of grief in the wake of Cave’s 15-year-old son Arthur, passing away in July of last year.
But it’s almost autumn, so it’s kind of apropos, right?
However, Cave has counciled that most of the lyrics were actually written prior to his son’s death, and that he was too stricken to write anything worthwhile in the aftermath. Nor should anyone set too much store by the bizarre, apparently premonitory, coincidences in the lyrics: the album’s opening line about a body falling from the sky; the recurring theme of addressing God to no avail – which even disconcerted his main musical foil, Warren Ellis.
So let it just be known that Cave was creepy and spooky long before the advent of this unfortunately “psyeudo-themed” album.
The album also comes at a time when Cave has released a heartbreaking documentary ‘One More Time With Feeling‘ about dealing with his son’s death. But you don’t necessarily have to see it to appreciate and understand this album though. It’s a hodge-podge of visceral sketches, flashes of memory, imagination, and some blend thereof all leaping out in fits.
It’s extremely likely that no other record released this year will provoke such conflicting emotions. ‘Skeleton Tree‘ is both beautiful and harrowing, hard to listen to but even harder to disconnect from. Cave is a master of narrative songwriting, but here, we’re afforded voyeuristic glimpses into his own torment: “The urge to kill someone was basically overwhelming/ I had such hard blues down there in the supermarket queues,” he confesses on ‘Magneto‘, while the gorgeous ‘Girl In Amber‘ is haunted by the appearance of “your little blue eyed boy” and the admission that, “I knew the world would stop spinning now since you’ve been gone”.
Did I mention it gets a tad bit depressing?
The music is sparse and restrained, sometimes bordering on ambient – see ‘Anthrocene‘, whose dissonant ebb and flow is dictated by spectral piano chords and irregular waves of percussion – though not without flashes of beauty, and even hope. Cave’s own state of disarray is contrasted with awe at his wife’s resilience – “This is what she does and this is what she is,” he sings on ‘Rings of Saturn‘ – while Danish soprano Else Torp’s vocal on ‘Distant Sky‘ acts as a kind of balm against the sting of grief.
As wondrous as ‘Skeleton Tree‘ is, there are moments where you’ll inevitably question what you, the listener, are getting from it – reassurance? Empathy? Enjoyment? From beginning to end it’s like one continuous eulogy, albeit without the usual Nick Cave body count like, say, ‘Murder Ballads‘.
On this album it’s just the one.
And thank God for that.
Yet this is not an album for just everyone; it’s a reflex reaction to a torment most people will thankfully never have to endure. It goes back to that old instinct of self-preservation: just as a shark must keep moving, so an artist must keep working, even in the face of unimaginable loss.
Depressing albums aside, I’m rather happy with this run.
The goal was to run continuously and I managed to do that for 6.5k with the last kilometer at my current 5k pace. I wasn’t sure how far I would get in the beginning as ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning started complaining early but towards the end, they woke up and were all like “Hey, I remember this running shit!” and off they went. Sure, they bitched a bit up the short hill on Gorham Rd., but after that it was all good and I could have run even longer.
Don’t get me wrong though, I glad I didn’t…but I could have.
Hopefully, this is a sign that my running fitness is going to come fairly smoothly after nearly two months of short intervals and drills.
Fingers (and toes) crossed.