If you’re not a fan of Nick Cave, you’re missing out. It’s as simple as that. First discovering his music a few years ago was a transcendent experience for me; akin to opening a treasure chest overflowing with musical gold. He is best known, of course, as the leader of The Bad Seeds, and over the last three decades his eclectic output with that band has ranged from deliciously dark murder ballads to whispered mediations on the nature of the divine via pretty much everything in between. He is an obscenely talented man and a personal idol of mine. That said, I could never really get into his recent side-project Grinderman. Until now.
Their debut album, released in 2007, was loud and nasty in all the right ways but ultimately somewhat lacking in terms of lyrical content. Once you’d heard lead single, ‘No Pussy Blues’, you’d pretty much heard the whole album. It was obvious that Cave and his cronies had thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the studio and the unashamed juvenility of it all had a certain charm, but one that soon wore off. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I first listened to Grinderman 2and found myself absolutely adoring it.
It is clearly a much more considered and carefully constructed album than its predecessor. The jokes of the first album are still present (“My baby calls me the Loch Ness monster; two great big humps and then I’m gone,” Cave snarls on the delightfully smutty ‘Worm Tamer’), as are the screeching guitars and dirty old man attitude. Here, however, these are more tolerable as they are juxtaposed with quieter moments of vulnerability and introspection, resulting in a more rewarding listening experience.
Highlights include single ‘Heathen Child’ (check out its gloriously bonkers acid trip of a video on YouTube – you won’t regret it), ‘Kitchenette’ – a bluesy waltz that finds Cavecomically attempting to seduce a married woman by insulting her husband and children – and ‘Palaces of Montezuma’: a love song containing some truly ghoulish imagery.
The most impressive track on the album, though, is the last. ‘Bellringer Blues’ is an unequivocal triumph that ranks alongside the best songs of Cave’s career. Its brilliance gives the impression that the preceding eight songs were merely the band warming up and left me positively gasping for another track. And therein lays the album’s one real flaw: its brevity. I’m well aware that it’s a cliché, but in this instance it’s completely true.
Grinderman 2 surpassed my expectations entirely. So much so that I am now reluctant to refer to the band as a side-project. I know that I did so earlier – and I’m not going to revise it because I’m lazy – but the label doesn’t really do Grinderman justice. With this album they have established themselves as a band in their own right and a musical force to be reckoned with. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the best music never is.