While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact nadir of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ devastating Skeleton Tree, the synth-smeared “I Need You” presents itself as a clear frontrunner for emotional overload. So overwhelming is the perpetually cresting song that the lauded wordsmith Cave dissolves into crying out the titular “I need you” and “nothing really matters.” The Rs of the latter phrase are stretched out and slowly unfurl into “Nothing really matters when the one you love is gone.”
And while that sentiment might seem a touch nihilistic, it’s perfectly reasonable post-trauma. What could legitimately supersede the loss of a loved one, particularly one who never really got to live their life? What makes that pain go away? When do you stop looking for answers in the prolonged mundanity of a supermarket line? Is there a point when home can feel like home again, or are you always going to be “standing in the doorway” wondering “How did I get here?”
Of course the simplest answer is that nothing can supplant such loss. The pain doesn’t go away, it’s just dulled. The questioning doesn’t subside. Home will always feel different. Life doesn’t get easier, it gets more tolerable. Cave, joined by warm “ahhhh ooooohs” from the other side, seems to know all of this. But that knowledge doesn’t make what’s happened any better.
Skeleton Tree is out now and honestly stands as one of the best records you’ll hear all year.