Release Date: Apr 10, 2007
Record label: Anti-
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Longevity was not a characteristic anyone ever expected the Birthday Party to embody. "Hands up who wants to die," frontman Nick Cave screamed on Sonny's Burning, and his band's behaviour suggested theirs would be the first in the air. Two heroin overdoses, a fight between Cave and a heckler so violent that the rest of the band were forced to abandon playing, a bloody punch-up involving Cave and guitarist Mick Harvey, bass player Tracey Pew passing out face-first on stage: this would be an impressive tally of catastrophes if accumulated over the course of a band's career, but they all took place during just one 1981 Birthday Party gig.
After the epic proportions of Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus double-disc in which Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds laid out two sides of the songwriter's melodic and ambitious look at both rock & roll and balladry, Grinderman sounds like a wild, nasty, wooly rock & roll monolith who simply need to let it rip and then see what happens. Along with Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos (right, 3/7 of the Bad Seeds), Cave and company turn in a squalling, raucous, twist-and-turn garage band set that takes on all comers.
Grinderman is in no way a conventional comedy album, but an accomplished cocksman like Nick Cave howling the "No Pussy Blues" is pretty damn funny anytime. For a man who's (allegedly) sampled PJ Harvey and Kylie Minogue and has been (by all accounts) happily married since 1999, he makes a remarkably persuasive – and, since it's Cave and some of his seedier Bad Seeds, extremely clamorous – case for ye olde blue balls. From his Birthday Party on, Cave has pursued the prototypical persona of the priapic bluesman yet hasn't articulated it this explicitly since 1994's "Red Right Hand" and Murder Ballads' riotous take on "Stagger Lee.
As rock-basher Woody Allen illustrated when he had Shelley Duvall recite lexis from “Just Like a Woman,” rock lyrics ain’t poetry. Rock and literature can exist in awkward symbiosis (often to rock’s enrichment, and usually to literature’s detriment), but they’re different games, for a lot of solid reasons. Short of premature death, the easiest way for a veteran rocker to become a caricature is by posing as a man or woman of letters while remaining fully beholden to rock hubris and gusto.