Monday, October 17th, 2016

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – I Need You

You want it darker…


Megan Harrington: It’s interesting that Nick Cave calls this song “I Need You” when it could just as easily be called “Nothing Really Matters.” The two are opposing forces — the primal vs. the complex — and the title reinforces Cave’s determined honoring of the most basic human drive. I can’t quite call it optimistic, but it’s life affirming. “I Need You” is a love song and a loveless song, a token of comfort that accepts its limitations. The seemingly inconsequential (standing in line at the supermarket) is rendered immortal with elaborate detail (a red dress, a black car waiting, hands held) and these images collide with allusion — to death, to sex, to some more powerful understanding of the world. Nothing really matters because everything is meaningful; it’s impossible to separate the mundane from the essential in a labyrinth as idiosyncratic as memory. So Cave preserves it all, the competing emotions he held all at once, the two colors, the coming and the going. He does this without saying “remember.” In fact, he changes tense, shifting between past and present to warp the hard borders of time. When “I Need You” closes it’s with breathing. Cave lets the moment end but the need is inside him, preserved, as long as he exists. 

Josh Winters: Not many things in my personal history have been able to disable my guard very easily (I can usually count the number of times I’ve cried in a year on one hand). However, it was at the 1:37 mark — the vocals emerging from the ether, seeking salvation from the weight of unspeakable suffering — when “I Need You” hit me straight in the chest, causing me to weep profusely on first listen. It’s a testament to Cave’s emotional intuition, how there lies an element so direct that, within a tangled web of grief and sorrow, it can communicate itself without words and become universally understood, thus universally felt.

Alfred Soto: Immune to his insistence on the primacy of Gothic/gothic tropes but aware of his considerable influence, I wanted to give this statue in the park the second and third listen he deserves. I suppose a constituency for unsteady quavers and synth fanfare exists.

Jonathan Bradley: It’s jarring to hear Cave this shaken: he is here frailer, less sure than he’s been ever in forty years of theatrics, whether in his Grand Guignol post-punk days or now in his velvet dotage. The context — a family tragedy — explains the emotional turn, but the negative space within his departed confidence communicates more than any back story. It also results in an aimlessness that is authentic and anti-climactic: “I Need You” stretches longer than loss and, over six minutes, Cave doesn’t know what to do with himself.

Thomas Inskeep: This has the pacing of a hymn, but not one I’d enjoy singing. And it doesn’t particularly sound like Cave’s enjoying singing this sprightly plod, either.

Lilly Gray: This was an extremely hard listen, but I’m not sure I could think of any better circumstances for hearing it. I don’t want to catch on any lyrics other than the chorus, a very necessary lift. It so completely embodies what it means and what, I suppose, the ideal listener is thinking that managing to get to the end is enough. I guess. It is what it is, like they say. I can’t do supermarkets either. 

Katie Gill: I know it’s not Nick Cave’s fault that he got old and can’t hit some of those delightfully low notes of his youth. But man, age did a number on that poor guy’s voice. At the same time, the age in his voice helps hit that heartbreak and sadness that just pours through the song. He sings in a way almost paying no attention to the instrumentation — which is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it creates a distinctively disjointed song, his vocals disrupting the lethargic backing. But on the other hand… I kind of think that’s the point.

Claire Biddles: He’s seen all of this before. The red dress, the hair falling down, the supermarket aisles. This is the worn and reused backdrop waiting for the individual characters to be painted on top. But there’s no characters to hide behind. Just the hum, the background noise. The imagery is particular to latter day Nick — the gothic jarring with the British suburban; a vampire in the aisles of Sainsbury’s. The reused imagery, the reused sentiment — it’s not about the banality of grief, it is the banality of grief. The door of the house opening when you come home from the police station and everything is the same. Nick could have articulated this a hundred times better than me, or any of us, but instead he just shows it to us, through recycled phrases and images and pressing the keys of the same piano again and again and again. It would be glib and maybe cruel to describe this as a conceptual portrayal of grief. “I thought I knew better, so much better.” Grief turns our words into cliches.

Reader average: [8.19] (5 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Comments are closed.