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"Grinderman 2"

Grinderman – Grinderman 2
21 September 2010, 14:00 Written by Erik Thompson

Grinderman have replaced the masturbatory monkey that was comically featured on the album art for their debut, in favor of a predatory wolf that graces the cover of their stellar new record, Grinderman 2. And that distinction is a calculated one, as this new album is far more menacing, sinister and substantial than their initial offering. That’s not to say that their last release didn’t have teeth as well, but while those songs threateningly snapped at you, this new batch of songs actually have bite, and are as venomous and baleful as anything Nick Cave has released in years. It’s a much fuller realization of the audacious aim of the band, with the new record coalescing in an imaginatively ominous way that was only hinted at on their debut. The four-man, Bad Seeds-culling lineup has remained unchanged on the new record, but the group has distinctly refined their forceful arrangements, adding a potency to their sound that will unsettle the music world while keeping them utterly entertained as well.

The album stumbles out of the bar with the growling potency of ‘Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Man,’ whose cartoonish title is the only thing about the song that’s suitable for children. It’s a bass-driven, lecherous track that just oozes wanton sexuality, and gets the record off to a steamrolling start. ‘Worm Tamer’ and ‘Heathen Child’ both bristle with the bravado and raw intensity of the Birthday Party, and clearly find the 53-year old Cave invigorated and in fine vocal form. In the later track, Cave is bemoaning how no one can ultimately protect us from the ills of society (or, specifically, the wolf-man or abominable snowman); if we think our great big husband, our little wife, our kids or our government can protect us, we are wrong. It is fundamentally up to us to defend ourselves, and that vulnerability is what the antagonists that populate the dark corners of Cave’s lyrics prey upon, giving these songs a threatening, foreboding quality that only adds to their inherent vehemence.

‘When My Baby Comes’ and ‘What I Know’ smoothes things out a bit, bringing a mellow, studied sound to the middle-point of the record. But even the bluesy swagger of ‘Baby’ is infused with plenty of anxiety and tension, which explodes during the riotous extended coda, instilled with Warren Ellis’ desolate violin and Jim Sclavunos’ thunderous drums. ‘Evil’ has the frenetic, unhinged quality of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, complete with comparably provacative, repetitive lyrics. After the portentous howl of ‘Kitchenette,’ the band again unwinds a bit on the soulfully elegant ‘Palaces Of Montezuma,’ which echoes Cave’s best narrative ballads with the Seeds.

The record finishes with the emphatic buzz of ‘Bellringer Blues,’ which closes out this rowdy, boisterous work in appropriately unruly fashion. It’s always gratifying to hear an artist you admire sound rejuvenated and inspired later in their career, and Grinderman continues to be one hell of a liberating spectacle for all of the artists involved. And, if we are lucky enough to get another Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (which was released shortly after Grinderman’s debut) out of the still-burning embers of Grinderman 2, we can all quit calling this a late-period comeback for Cave, and start realizing that he’s thankfully not going away quietly anytime soon.


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