Grinderman – Grinderman 2
aaamusic | On 15, Sep 2010
I feel that little can be said to introduce Grinderman without the information feeling superfluous or repeated. This is Nick Cave’s “other band”, although he asserts that this endeavour is equal in stature to his more well-know mob The Bad Seeds. Yes there is a definite sense of the ridiculous at play, and no they are not exploiting soulless irony. With no further ado, let’s get stuck into their second self-titled release, ‘Grinderman 2’
Kicking things off with a brief bluesy intro that heaps on the distortion comes ‘Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Man’, and after thirty seconds it is down to the dirty and gleeful heart of the matter. Kicking in with a schizophrenic percussion beat and sleazy riff comes the song, as Nick Cave’s distinctive vocals snarl with a timbre to match the buzzsaw guitar. By two minutes, the band have launched themselves into the stratospheric regions of rocking out, touching upon the old post-punk habits of incorporating tribal music aspects and unusual effects pedals, albeit with an approach that combines it with the attitude of Motörhead. Similarly unhinged is ‘Worm Tamer’, bringing to the board hints of spaghetti western, along with every possible discord that can be achieved by a rock band without running into shoegaze. At points in the verse, the instruments are barely identifiable, although that said, this is by no means uncomfortable listening. This is a catchy and sleazy yet artful pile of rock noise with flashes of tongue-in-cheek lyrical genius: “My baby calls me the Loch Ness Monster, two great big humps and then I’m gone.” Carrying on with the themes of mythology and sex is the previously-released single, ‘Heathen Child’, combining tribal beats, pulsating bass and droning guitar snarls with a gleeful sense of the ridiculous and questionable taste. Catchy, smart and fun, this is a contender for one of the best tracks of the year. Think Jimi Hendrix and Lemmy leading a procession to Stonehenge and you’re nearly there.
‘When My Baby Comes’ tones things down a little, introducing a much darker tone with eerie plucked melodies and lurching atmospheric strings as Nick Cave laments and pleads in his unique and unnerving style as the song reaches a spine-tingling climax at three minutes. The following descent into cacophonous instrumental is well-executed and paced with a masterful ear. ‘What I Know’ then builds the whole thing up from scratch with a muted kick-drum and sparse noises of static and squeaks in the background of a brittle narrative.
Of course, Grinderman could not exercise restraint forever, and with a crash of noise comes ‘Evil’, screeching guitars, tumbling percussion and bass, and completely obsessive lyrics all over the rabid background vocals. If you missed Nick Cave’s genuinely unsettling side, here it is back with a vengeance. Similar with ‘Kitchenette’, possibly the creepiest psycho-blues song ever to combine obsession and a kitchen setting, revelling in the grotesquery of mundane life in its ponderous beats and vicious distorted melody.
‘Palaces Of Montesuma’ is by comparison a relief, with a lighthearted piano-driven sound providing framework for the cheerful guitar riff and backing vocals that are almost pop in the context of this album. It is deceptively simple as a track, but the jangling percussion and angelic melody here are a sublime moment of brightness in the darkness of the album. The closer, ‘Bellringer Blues’ drags itself to the listener via what sounds like the rest of the album if the speakers were on an acid trip. Psychedelic, ominous and in possession of a primal power, the track is a true album closer as it lurches through a morbid narrative. Instrumental sections and lyrics are given equal care, creating a dark lament of the state of humanity.
Although some moments feel superfluous (‘What I Know’ feeling notably limp compared to other tracks) ‘Grinderman 2’ is overall a superb album featuring talented musicians, well-written lyrics, and above all a sense of intelligence and real passion buried within the sleaze and lunacy that makes up initial impressions. This is an album that has survived the hype surrounding it to emerge as a triumphant success in its own right, and deserves to belong on the shelves of music fans the world over.