Grinderman 2

The deepest, darkest of Caves. Certainly the heaviest and, though the jury is out on this, the funniest. In 2007, the initial stirrings of Grinderman seemed like a particularly bizarre twist in the tail of a disparate career. It was to be welcomed, for a literary softness had started to beg and Nick Cave, then more than now, was beginning to resemble an Australian national treasure. One wouldn’t really want such a thing and I, for one, shuddered at the poll that placed him ahead of Kylie and Dame Edna as the ‘celeb’ who could fill the presidency most effectively. Mind… it would be fun.

Grinderman was a kick-back to the Bad Seeds in more ways than one. An unholy alliance between Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos. Close your eyes and it could almost be Camden 1985… falling amid the blackly bedenimed hoards, beneath a Bad Seed hammering. That’s a personal memory though, for all Cave’s wry and heady success, it is a sound and a feel that I longed to wash over me once again.

Well here it is. Grinderman 2. Black sex, soaring dirty blues. A nasty mess of grinding power. A train wreck blues album where the guiding passions are lust and anger, want and howling. This is not a pretty record though the discordant clanging is never allowed to grate. Because of all this, perhaps, it is also achingly funny, if perhaps edgily so. For at no point on this nine song tirade does one feel the slightest warmth to the narrator. Lewd, coarse, intense and sinister. As the tracks flick by, the vision become increasing dark, By the time you reach track four ‘When My Baby Comes’, you swear you are witnessing a murder. The waft of eerily surreal lyrical imagery is suddenly battered away in an orgy of demonic screams.

Of course, it’s a fictional blast and, surely, no more disturbing than some downbeat horror flick? Well maybe. But listen in a darken room through the length of a bottle of wine, as I did last night, and something remarkable happens. Cave voice blends with ease… becomes increasing meshed with the insane blues howl. You can’t help but climb in and feel those jagged edges. It is a record that turns The White Stripes into Donny and Marie… oh yes, I exaggerate, of course. But this is such a black trip, such a warped freak out.

A fault, arguably throughout Cave’s career, has been the uneven nature of even his most celebrated albums and I stretch back to Birthday Party days in that belief. Here there is a change and, I sense, the true applause must be given to producer Nick Launey. Here he has installed an all encompassing ‘bigness’, both in the musical structure and the closeness of the Cave voice. Indeed, despite the accompanying noise, the voice retains a freakish intimacy throughout. Naturally this serves to add to the menace… but how bizarre that it seems to grasp that voice close to the heart while the music buzzes and fizzes like an exploding box of fireworks. During ‘Kitchenette’, as warped and weird as anything David Lynch might drum up over rocket salad on Sunset Boulevard, the weirdness cracks up a notch, leaving you with nasty and vivid flashbacks to post Rain Dogs Tom Waits. That comparison is not, I plead with you, so lazy, for Grinderman as a unit do employ such courageous orthodoxy. However, in claiming that, there are also echoes of garage punk. In particular, that Sky Saxon moment where poptones suddenly turned into subversion. It’s not a bad moment for an artist to live in, and not bad for the listener, either. Oddly enough – and the are many oddities here – it is only during the penultimate song, ‘Palaces of Montezuma’, where the level of attack is allowed to soften a little too much. In that instant, one might even detect an unlikely prettiness, though it is lost and scared among all this vicious vision.

Well… it is never less than delicious although you may feel a touch of guilt as you look back on your pleasure. Grinderman 2 is a masturbation.


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