I’m on my third listen of the new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album. Professionals will moan that I haven’t had enough time to accurately judge the merits and demerits of the album given it’s just a few days old.
Well, I’m not being paid to do this, so here goes.
My general gripe with Nick Cave albums is that I find it hard to stay focussed on them. I’m the kind of rabid post-punk fan that loves the driving bassline and drumbeat tropes of the genre. Every time I put on a Nick Cave album, I am aware of its import, but I’m not always enthralled.
That’s probably my fault.
This hasn’t been the case with Skeleton Tree. I really quite like it. Personally, I love the album’s dreamy major-key moments on Skeleton Tree, Distant Sky, and Rings of Saturn, which has the album’s most memorable refrain:
And this is the moment, this is exactly what she is born to be / And this is what she does and this is what she is
This is not to say that the rest of the album is not just as great. My favourite song of the album is I Need You, which, to me was just a sad, sad song. It ticked off all my melodrama boxes, leaving me filled with regret about a dead relationship (Score!). At the end of every listen of the song (there have been several), I usually find myself agreeing broadly with its almost-cliché premise:
Nothing really matters.
There’s no doubt the album is a shade of blue, but unlike the other Nick Cave albums I have heard, it isn’t pitch-freaking-black. There’s an all-pervading sense of loss through the album, and on tracks like Girl in Amber, I get the sense that if you let yourself go, you’ll find yourself fighting back tears, but overall, the sadness does not overwhelm you.
And I think that the album generally avoids ^that pitfall is the reason why this is the first time I remember looping a Nick Cave album. Yes, Nick Cave is intended to be a purveyor of dirge-rock, and yes, I enter every album expecting dirge after sludgy dirge, but in this album, there seems to be a certain positivity (that I’m sure I’d find in all of his albums, if I were capable) in the form of acceptance – a light to the usual black.
Overall, I recommend this album strongly. It’s more proof that 2016 has been the best year for music in my life so far. I will be listening to it often. But be warned, it is a sad album with the potential to be heart-rending under the right circumstances. Keep something cheerful ready in case it gets too much.
PS: Jesus Walks and I Need You are brilliants tracks to release as singles, but also probably the most depressing singles of the year. Here they are.
What El-P thinks:
new nick cave is serious business.
— el-p (@therealelp) September 12, 2016