Nick Cave is rock 'n' roll's Clint Eastwood. Like Eastwood, Cave has spent the better years of his adult life exploring the darkest, most dangerous side of his medium and developing an impervious badass reputation. And Cave's deceptively literate sensibility has benefitted his mid- to late age unlike most anyone would expect, refining what made him so scary in the first place into something so meaningful.When Cave cleaned out his pigfuck closet with Grinderman's debut, there was a sense that badassery in indie rock was going to come back, that rock 'n' roll was safe, that life was gonna be a little bit better.
What is it about dirty old men, anyway? In 2007, Nick Cave gave up the ghost of youth, declaring an out-and-out midlife crisis with Grinderman, a brilliant, crude, stripped-down quartet. Made up of members of his Bad Seeds, the nascent group's self-titled debut was naked about its grotesqueries, as Cave futzed with a guitar for the first time, wailed about the "No Pussy Blues", and sucked in his gut with hopes of getting laid. It was an inspired late-career move for the then 50-year-old, invigorating and recalibrating the piano-affixed, doom-saying troubadour.
It’s appropriate that the four members of Grinderman saw fit to don gladiatorial garb for the promo video for ‘Heathen Child’, the first song to be lifted from Grinderman 2. Their eponymous debut was a battle record, a chance to eviscerate people’s expectations, an opportunity to wipe the slate unclean, all executed with such visceral glee that it induced a disorienting feeling, akin to being told a tasteless joke whilst being punched in the gut. In many ways that album’s fecal tales of malice and animosity, punctured by gloriously atomised guitar and organ noise, felt like the definitive word on Grinderman.
When Grinderman released their debut in 2007, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos, and Martyn Casey created a reckless, drunken animal of an alter ego to the Bad Seeds. The album bridged territory mined by everyone from the Stooges to Suicide to Bo Diddley. Again recorded in the company of producer Nick Launay, Grinderman 2 is a more polished and studied affair than its predecessor, but it's a more sonically adventurous, white-hot rock & roll record.
Review Summary: Grinderman take themselves seriously and make a far more sophisticated record than their debut. When I saw Grinderman on their first Australian tour in 2007, the first thing I saw upon entering the venue was a large plastic horse (the extravagantly colourful kind you'd see on a merry-go-round) resting in the centre of the stage. Along with everyone else, I wondered why it was there and being familiar with the band's self-titled album, I assumed it was some kind of bizarre stage prop destined for destruction at the beginning of the show, in keeping with Cave's reputation for chaotic live shows during his time in The Birthday Party.
Grinderman began life with tongues in cheek – songs about mid-life crises referencing combovers and interviews mentioning "sheilas". However, their second album suggests they are now seriously rivalling their members' alter ego, the Bad Seeds. In fact, Grinderman 2 most recalls singer Nick Cave's old band, the Birthday Party, in mixing horror and black humour with barely tamed musical malevolence.
Nick Cave’s first line on Grinderman 2 goes, “I woke up this morning and I thought what am I doing here?” While he may not have meant it this way, there’s something increasingly familiar about that feeling of confusion. There’s a notion that everywhere we turn, we’re being confronted with outrage, with unchecked frustration, with an organic and natural outpouring of dissent and disenfranchisement—from tea partiers, from talking heads, from mosque picketers, from Quran burners, from the Right and the Left, from the privileged and the lower class, and on and on. Everywhere, there’s shouting and squabbling, and we’re supposed to believe that this just happened, that things have come to some sort of head.
The first Grinderman album was an unexpected triumph. It seemed unnecessary to create a new band name for what was essentially just a smaller Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with Cave playing guitar, but the raw and raunchy results were so much fun that no one complained. It looks like they had a great time doing it, too, because they're back with a sequel after taking some time off to make a proper Bad Seeds album.
For artists of a certain caliber, it’s always difficult to tell if their new work is actually disappointing or just disappointing within the scope of their back catalog. Example: while Magic may not stand out within the Bruce Springsteen collection, it would certainly have been a feather in Jesse Malin’s hat. Likewise, Grinderman 2 is a great album by most standards.
On Grinderman’s eponymous 2007 debut, Nick Cave howled, “I don’t need you to set me free.” Three years later, Grinderman 2 finds the godfather of macabre rock ‘n’ roll having a hell of a time. The ragged nine-track album rages with songs that build from taut guitar jams to full-blown tantrums. Cave touches on religion and consumerism with his signature smirk, but he seems more focused on primal concerns.
Nick Cave wrote No Pussy Blues. It shouldn’t surprise me at all that a man of fifty-three years of age, even someone as literarily adept as Cave, could still be so preoccupied with his dick. After all, so much of a man’s identity, mortality and ego stems from keeping the member “tamed,” “charmed,” or “wrangled” as the single Worm Tamer not so subtly suggests, and Cave’s “Loch Ness monster,” (“Two great big humps and then I’m gone”), seems a little pent up.
In an interview with MOJO a few years back, Nick Cave talked about the raw sexuality of the first Grinderman album. “It’s uncomfortable from a man of 51. I’ve been called a ‘dirty old man’ many times and I enjoy that.” While carnality has played a part in Cave’s music since his tenure in The Birthday Party, there was an antsy, nose-thumbing gleefulness to songs like “Get It On,” “No Pussy Blues,” and “Love Bomb” that was inescapable.
Cave and co exhibit a bigger, fuller sound on their second LP. Garry Mulholland 2010 Just as you thought you’d worked out Nick Cave’s twisted version of songwriterly sophistication, along came 2007 and Grinderman. A strange kind of side-project starring Bad Seeds stalwarts Martyn Casey, Warren Ellis and Jim Sclavunos, Grinderman dumped the usual modus operandi by insisting "No God, no love, no piano", based themselves around Cave’s rudimentary guitar skills and deep love of the nasty side of the blues, and made a self-titled debut that made you laugh out loud at its rumbling aggression and hilarious takes on mid-life crisis and being an unapologetic dirty old man.
As fun as 2007’s eponymous Grinderman debut was at the time, on reflection it now feels more like a libidinous hirsute recharge for Nick Cave & three of his Bad Seeds, needed to power-up 2008’s swaggering full-blooded Bad Seeds LP Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, rather than a bona fide standalone gem in the increasingly vast Cave catalogue. So when a sequel set appeared on the horizon, with the functional title of Grinderman 2, it was hard not to wonder if this side-project wasn’t an in-joke searching for a second elusive punch-line. With the slightly formulaic unofficial sequel to the first album’s “No Pussy Blues” appearing as the preceding single in the shape of “Heathen Child” (with a cartoonishly offensive video to boot), worst fears seemed confirmed.
Grinderman’s debut wasn’t a joke, but it often felt like the perfect prank. It was record full of throbbing, winkingly misogynistic sleaze-anthems from respectable, literary types who should know better— basically,miserabilist post-punk cock-rock for grad students. It was a sonic snot-rocket, and it was wonderful, but Nick Cave and company face a problem with their sophomore release, Grinderman 2: is it possible for a band that celebrates immaturity to… gulp… mature? Judging solely from the song titles (“Worm Tamer,” “Heathen Child”) the answer would appear to be no, but while Cave hasn’t abandoned the major G-Man lyrical concerns (sex, evil, sex, one-liners, sex), he has, along with wayward Bad Seeds Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos, inched the group towards musical maturity.
Free jazz indie rock? John Zorn might approve. Shards of corrosive woodshedding imbedded at every angle, Grinderman 2 sequels the lashing 2007 debut by Nick Cave's Bad Seeds satellite quartet beginning with the Jesus Lizard vamp and release of "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man." Profane pole rider "Worm Tamer" pulses industrial asthma next, its rhythmic shellacking acting as meat hook. "Heathen Child" blows a tweeter third.
Once upon a time the remix of a rock record consisted of little more than adding several bars of an instrumental breakdown after the second chorus, about an extra two minutes of beats with beefed-up Linn drums and some splash pads over the snare throughout. Money for old rope to be sure but at least tracks such as the 12" version of The Sisters Of Mercy's 'Temple Of Love' allowed your common or garden indie DJ to nip out for a quick slash while the Goths were getting down to some serious spiky chicken dancing. Of course, that was then and this is now and while the whole music business struggles to regain some kind of composure after being turned on its head and having its rules and business model kicked beyond recognition, it still comes as a surprise to find Grinderman being the subject of a remix album.