Grinderman - Grinderman

Elsewhere in the song the priapic hero drinks panther piss and does terrible things to your good lady wife.

Grinderman – Grinderman

 

Grinderman, as you probably know, is the work of Nick Cave and several of the Bad Seeds. It's been touted as a return to the earlier work of Cave – out with the ballads and in with the seedy rock. It's been talked up a lot too - proof, I think, that many fans have found his recent work (Nocturama especially) rather too safe and too polite for comfort. The Boatman's Call clearly ranks with his best work but the last decade has seen albums come and go and, the odd exception apart, few have contained really memorable tracks. This has led for a yearning for a return to the feral years and for a bit of demented shouting and hollering. But does Grinderman deliver?

 

Certainly album opener Get It On suggests we're in for a treat. Cave certainly sounds demented as he talks about mice, baboons and motherfuckers. And all this over a very basic buzz saw guitar and some honky-tonk piano. Elsewhere in the song the priapic hero drinks panther piss and does terrible things to your good lady wife. The song threatens to explode into a mass of white noise but never does. It's brooding and bonkers and sets the scene.

 

No Pussy Blues keeps it simple. Cave's guitar playing is basic to the point of being inept until he unleashes some great screeching noise. The drums remain restrained (as do the other instruments) and allow Cave's self-deprecating jeremiad full room to amuse. Finally, however, the song really explodes into the kind of freak out Cave fans have been waiting years for. Ah, if only Blixa was there too...

 

Electric Alice features thumping bass, Warren Ellis' violin, and some interesting organ noises. There's menace but the song lacks a certain something. Title track Grinderman grinds away. The pace is slow, the beat repetitious, and arcing guitar lines are the sole embellishments. Depth Charge Ethel ups the ante. The drums get a work out and the song cracks along at a decent lick. The bass is low and fast and the dumb chorus features high-pitched whoops.

 

Go Tell The Women is the most obviously catchy number. Based around a couple of funky loops the sparse song allows Cave full rein to play around with the words and pronounce them with a lecherous cadence. A bit of falsetto is thrown in too. (I Don't Need You To) Set Me Free could be from an early 90s Cave album (which is no bad thing) whilst Honey Bee (Let's Fly To Mars) is an urgent rock fug that includes Cave making buzzing noises. Man In The Moon brings the mood back down and could have been included on The Boatman's Call. When My Loves Come Down slips past without really engaging but album closer Love Bomb finishes things off in style. Funky and sleazy and suitably apocalyptic at times it also has Cave listening to Gardener's Question Time at one point. Honestly.

 

So is really Cave getting back to basics? As ever things aren't quite so simple. At forty minutes it is certainly more concise than recent efforts. The sense of focus helps – previous double album Lyre of Orpheus / Abattoir Blues was definitely a return to form but it also offered too much. But it isn't the raging garage blues fest we were led to expect. In fact there are only a couple of songs where the band really wig out. If anything I would say that this album displays a sense of extreme control. It's tight and taut and in an ideal world wouldn't be a studio album at all. Because I bet it really does rock live. And a rather strange idea took hold when I thought about what album to listen to next. Should I return to Henry's Dream, or to Tender Prey? Nether, I thought. This album has set me up to listen to a bit of Gallon Drunk. Make of that what you will.

 

Words: Chris Dawson.