Thursday, 11 January 2007

Nick Cave is a strange, beguiling dude. Here’s a guy who made some of the blackest, darkest music of the post-punk era, now verging on Hollywood acceptability (thanks to The Proposition) and is probably a more frequent guest on David Letterman than Steve Martin. His albums no longer carry the explosive, head-against-the-wall, heroin fear of yore, but they instead are big, expansive baroque meditations on love and murder. If anything, he’s only increased in intensity over the years, becoming accomplished at finding less obvious ways to pierce the human heart. So what is Grinderman, besides a scary collection of dudes, mustaches, cowboy hats and beards? It’s Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, and fellow Bad Seeds Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos unleashing pummeling blues-noise and plenty of foul language and innuendo and dirty imagery. If it wasn’t the Bad Seeds, this could be a case of the “We can still rock” inclination that generally sets in after 40. But being Nick Cave, who was blessed with the sense to model himself after Faulknerian characters and old bluesmen, there is no attempt to feed off of the flame of youth. These guys are thriving on age and dank, lonely corridors. Loose and raw, the songs on Grinderman creep around, all lanky guitars, and closely mic-ed vocals. “Go Tell the Women” is direct and disarming. “Get it On” has a strange, snarling energy that is pure Birthday Party, Cave turning into the preacher of filthy gospel while the rest of the band just sound pissed and angry. “No Pussy Blues” basically distills the impetus for every blues-derived song ever written into a few scattered lines. Grinderman is an honest look into Nick Cave’s version of rock and how to roll it—and folks, it ain’t pretty.

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