Rings of Saturn

You’ll be hard pressed to find any trace of Nick Cave’s signature wit and mordant humor on Skeleton Tree. The album was recorded in the fallout of family tragedy, and necessarily, the music is stripped down to a funereal bleakness hitherto undelved. The business of show business, however, must go on, and the wheels of the machine that sells records must keep turning. There’s something particularly grotesque, a testament about our time and celebrity culture, in watching a man whose child has just died make the rounds of late night talk show stages to promote a set of songs about deepest tragedy. Nick Cave is, of course, uniquely qualified to face being in this position; the tragic and the grotesque have always been his stomping grounds. He has to, on some level, appreciate the irony. Hence, I suppose, the garish carnival backdrop of his Late Show performance, a gallows joke nonpareil. There’s that sense of humor after all.

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