||10 September 2010
Never trust a man with a moustache that is not the fashion or culture of the time. He is only pleasing himself.
There’s a real sense that Nick Cave and his hairy Bad Seed acolytes are just having fun with some dumb rock clichés but making some great music to go along with. Grinderman is a brilliant excuse to jam together over a short period of time and see what comes out of it.
The Bad Seeds could hardly be accused of being po-faced or indeed lacking in aggression but Grinderman have the amps turned up to eleven, the guitars wailing and the lyrics more throwaway than one is accustomed to from the brooding Australian. At least that is what the eponymous debut was like. So has anything changed?
Grinderman 2 is a less abrasive album than its predecessor. It could almost be a Bad Seed’s offspring. There is a definite lean towards the psychedelic however the grand plans remains the same. The band sound like a self-parodying Black Sabbath or Doors outfit. You can still hear the joyful mischief in Cave’s nods to all the great destructive front men from the past. Back in The Birthday Party days he wanted to be one of them without compromise, now he is playing a character and revelling in it all the same. Unlike the Bad Seeds there is no room for the evangelistic or the wistful; there is only balls out rock 'n' roll.
Despite the band of brothers feel to proceedings the shamanistic quality of Cave cannot be suppressed. On 'Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man' the feedback violence and the primal drums swell around their leader. You can imagine him stomping the earth within a circle of rasping guitars and sweaty rhythms on this speed rock track.
"My baby calls me the Loch Ness monster, two great humps and then I’m gone".
The funny sexual puns that have become so prevalent in Cave’s repertoire heave within the squealing synth drones and fuzzy guitars of 'Worm Tamer'.
The lead single from the album 'Heathen Child' is entirely ridiculous given the video has the group dressed up as Roman centurions with laser beam eyes. Cave plays with rock paradoxes: The theatrical masculinity of rock music that is so alluring and exhilarating and at the same time so farcical and stupid. The song is akin to early Bad Seeds if more tongue in cheek. Its Indian chanting rhythms reminds the listener of 'Tupelo' without the latter’s apocalyptic menace.
There is a change in tact with 'When My Baby Comes' which begins with sweet, soft violins until it all goes very Pink Floyd in a crescendo of echoing guitars and an ominous bassline. This is a big woozy psyche-out with a chorus of refrains drifting out into silence.
Another immense number is 'Evil' that is a less chaotic re-invention of many Birthday Party songs. You can hear the togetherness and the urgency of the band in full throttle.
A key song in the set is 'Kitchenette' that shows up the self aggrandising myth of the rock band as sex gods living in Olympus. This is a companion piece to 'No Pussy Blues' from the first album; a reminder, if we needed it, that these are not young gun slingers but formerly hard living musicians able to play with irony, tone and image.
"What has the husband of yours ever given to you, Oprah Winfrey on a plasma screen".
Not only can Cave be culturally funny he can always surprise the listener and set them off kilter in a minor twist of phraseology.
'Palaces Of Montezuma' is one of the great Cave compositions. There is always a feeling that Cave could muster up a Goethe reference next to one about X-factor and no more is it so exemplary than here. As a funny and dazzling list of adorned gifts to a love one it’s got to be one of the best.
"The spinal cord of JFK wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s’ negligee...I give to you".
Don’t let its mid tempo and simple drum pattern put you off. You can really hear the band blossom in their collective abilities. The track gives the mood of a tight live recording.
Finishing off the set is 'Bellringer Blues', a swampy track with swirling keys. This could be a bluesier track on an Oasis or Kasabian album but it only demonstrates the versatility of Grinderman’s seasoned pro that they can switch tone musically so easily.
There’s very little wrong with the album overall. Maybe there are not enough songs and a couple of slow burners that fail to light properly. However this is the sound of middle aged men having fun and seemingly uncovering the Holy Grail to creativity: Keep it quick, don’t think about it too much and enjoy yourself. Oh and have one of the best lyricist/front men in the world and some of the most thrilling rock musicians. See, it’s easy when you know how. Keep it up lads and let’s hope they infect the rest of the parent band with their spontaneity when the Bad Seeds return for their next album.
- Tim Gannon