For over 30 years, Nick Cave has given us music unlike anything else in existence. His influences, wide in scope, along with his penchant for story telling have allowed him to build a career saturated in brilliance, heartbreak, victory and loss, the broad strokes of such a commanding visionary exhibited across a musical canvas spanning decades. He created a sound that, like Radiohead (a band that formed well after his debut) could be instantly recognizable, regardless of the genre in which he aimed to explore. Last month, the world welcomed the release his latest album Skeleton Tree, a collection of songs said to have been inspired by his son's unexpected passing last July. Despite some songs having been written before his son's tragic death, they still feels very much connected.
It's an album swathed in heartache, be it that of a grieving father or quite simply a human being living in today's climate, a reality that makes the beauty of the album that much more striking of an accomplishment, like a rose dragged beneath the heel of a boot that still retains its color at the end of the parade. On July 14th, 2015, Nick Cave's son Arthur was walking with a friend in Brighton, England, where he lived with his family. An inquest revealed that he had taken LSD and veered too close to a cliff where he fell to his death sixty feet below. He was 15 years old. I remember reading about the story shortly after it happened. I researched it further over the past few weeks as the album's release ignited a recent surge of interest and noted on almost every review you could find.
Losing a loved one is devastating enough but I always imagined a musician's take on such a loss to be particularly unique. Not harder. Just different, as the experience would undoubtedly be shared among thousands, emotions swelling within a performance both therapeutic and heartbreaking. I listen to the album and I hear a father in mourning sharing an unspeakable pain and I realize something. No matter what I do, it will always bring me back to that one thing - I am a father, and one day, my children will no longer be with me. I don't deny the morbidity of such a thought. It's not intentional. It just is. Everything revolves around my sons. My heart swells from the thought of them and it's that very image that pulls the fear ashore, prevents it from drowning and stores it safely in the inventory of my worst nightmares.
The media will have us believe that the world is in chaos, and that we are upon a cultural shift unlike anything we've ever experienced. And they may be right. But the command my children have on my thoughts is greater than any possible decline of civilization of which some people feel we are on the verge. There are things in this world far greater than one person, two people even. However those very people that come to mind, to me, are immeasurable. What comforts me is also what fuels the unrest. There will never be a time when I won't put my sons first. But there will always be a time when my deepest fears will abandon captivity and run rampant in what I would hope to still be a relatively young mind.
Parenthood can fuck you up. There's no denying this. I love, I yell, I frustrate, I soothe. It's a cycle that's not without its rewards, but still the root of a great deal of anxiety for me. Arthur Cave's death was the result of a substance I myself have ingested on multiple occasions. And I would be a fool to think that my sons won't at some point in their lives either choose on their own, or even be pressured into experimenting with certain things. As adults, we try things to know why. As children, we try things to know why not. I won't be the first to admit it but close; thinking the worst will do you no fucking good. There was a time in my life when I thought becoming a parent was never in sight. But now, its the only type of eyes I own. And as sad as its collection of songs may seem, there's a beautiful album out there that can tell you why.