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.
Received more rapturously than any Cave/Bad Seeds album since Murder Ballads – and buoyed by sweatily vicious shows that personified the band in terms of lounge suits and wild facial hair – Grinderman the album forced Grinderman the band to become Cave’s parallel career. Hence a much-anticipated follow-up that responds to demand by sounding altogether more worked upon than the quartet’s feral debut.
Not that Grinderman 2 is aimed at the Mumford & Sons market. But veteran producer Nick Launay has helped Cave & Co toward a bigger, fuller sound, influenced as much by 60s garage punk and droning Krautrock as the blues. Ellis unleashes a slew of stunning guitar moves, sometimes erecting a wall of psychedelic sound, sometimes bucking and rearing out of the murk like some wounded animal at the end of its cattle-prod tether.
But thrash is largely eschewed for suspenseful dynamics, dumb jokes (Worm Tamer features the timeless couplet, "My baby calls me the Loch Ness monster / Two great big humps and then I’m gone") and stand-out exercises in mood and texture, especially the Suicide-esque, creep-minimalism of What I Know and the stunning rock mambo of When My Baby Comes.
Elsewhere, stalking, rape and murder is just a swamp-blues kiss away. Those wanting the lovelorn, classicist Cave of The Boatman’s Call and The Good Son need not apply. The rest of us will succumb happily to Grinderman’s sick skill and wonder why rebel teens don’t make dangerous, dastardly rock‘n’roll like this anymore.
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