‘While everything is quiet and easy, Mr Grinder can have his way…’
Grinderman is Nick Cave and Bad Seeds Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn Casey being truly BAD. As bad as the Birthday Party’s psychotic junk-death carcrash and even badder than the new Stooges album.
‘The name Grinderman seemed to suit the band,’ says Jim. ‘It sums up the sort of music we are making. We grind.’ Grinderman is far from a hobby band, more a cathartic steam blow out where no holds are barred and fantasies can be fulfilled no matter how murderous. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are renowned for crafting elegiac, beautiful music and cinematic grand passions, fired with demonic energy when the mood takes them. It’s the latter that galvanises Grinderman, who started their album in Metropolis Studios last February with five days of uproarious demo-ing. After a week in RAK studios with regular Bad Seeds producer, Nick Launay, they emerged with what can only be described as the best album of 2007. I really can’t see anyone beating this for sheer, untamed, raw creativity.
Grinderman let the juices flow. They’re running riot here, and, crucially, feel no allegiance to any required signature sound the Bad Seeds might have ingrained over the years, although it doesn’t seem possible to suppress their innate majesty. Consequently, we have the previously-undreamed-of-scenario of Nick Cave: Guitar Hero! The man’s been a sensitive, proficient keyboard player for years but this new appendage has given him licence to kill with ‘Fun House’ acting as his blueprint. The album is splattered, even dominated, by his coruscating feedback, midnight howls and bluesy shudders from six-strings which indeed sound like they’re drawing blood. ‘Having Nick on the guitar changes the whole dynamic,’ says Martyn Casey. It’s release the bats time. While Cave also indulges his evergreen obsession with classic blues lyricism, Jim Sclavunos gets to whack seven shades out of his drum kit. Martyn Casey takes his bass to terrifying extremes of Satanic bowel movement whilst Warren Ellis rips into the electric bouzouki when not making his violin sound like a swarm of killer bees.
Cave announces debut single and opening track, ‘Get It On’ with the war cry, ‘I’ve gotta get up to get down and start all over again, head on down to the basement and kick those white mice out…’ He sounds like he’s having the time of his life bellowing about ‘panther piss’ - and so do the other three as the music weighs in like the proverbial iron horse from hell: maraca-shaking, Bo Diddley beating, disembowelled-bass-overload-distortion-gurgle and coffin-crashing piano. Field holler call-and-response group vocals greet Cave’s testifying and it’s already apparent that this is one gloriously unholy racket.
Second single, ‘No Pussy Blues’, deals with the perils of advancing years and is hilarious with all Cave’s increasingly extravagant and depraved chat-up tactics falling on stony ground. This time the main noise culprit is Cave’s guitar, which makes its entry like Ron Asheton amped to the ear-battering level he should have been on The Weirdness. Again, the sound is full-tilt and carnivorously rampant.
It’s not all like this. ‘Electric Alice’ is slower, Cave reflecting over a sinister bass pulse, roto-hiss violins and a vat of creaks and electronic squelches. ‘Grinderman’ itself harks back to the primal blues energy the Bad Seeds mined on The First Born Is Dead, around 20 years ago. Marimba-like-electric-string sounds grate like rusty chains on a jailhouse floor as they are looped into an omnipresent drone-pulse over which Cave wails like an ancient Mississippi Delta folk singer before pissing loose a gutbucket axe squall. With tension, atmosphere and masochistic joie de vivre congealing into something absolutely gripping, these older fuckers make many of today’s hot, young hopefuls sound about as dangerous as a Cliff Richard Christmas album.
‘Depth Charge Ethel’ is where the Stooges obsession really explodes, as Sclavunos replicates the brutal beat tattoo of ‘Fun House’, slashed by a truly nasty garage-fuzz riff replete with surfing ‘oohs’ - all crowned by Cave’s virulent animation. Halfway through I felt like cavorting around the room like an idiot, which doesn’t happen much these days! ‘Go Tell The Women’ is a softer testimonial with an overdubbed Cave sinisterly intoning his soul-tinged shuffle. ‘[I Don’t Need You To] Set Me Free’ adapts the Bad Seeds’ patent spaghetti Western swagger with Cave’s bluesy guitar and widescreen chorus recalling their version of Tim Rose’s ‘Long Time Man’ on Your Funeral My Trial. Cave sounds genuinely excited when towards the end he shouts, ‘Alright, come on Grinderman!’ You simply could not imagine him doing that with the Bad Seeds, no matter how carried away he’s getting in their regular supernova overdrives.
Back into the ‘T.V. Eye’-style maelstrom for ‘Honey Bee [Let’s Fly To The Moon]’ - which effectively uses a synthesised techno sequence, Primal Scream-style, for extra propulsion in the rocketing engine department and space noises. Charging, soaring and joyously revelling in its unbridled bloodletting. There is nothing else here to please and placate other than Grinderman’s own evil hoodoo beast gleefully beckoning the Devil’s bell-end to its foetid tradesman’s entrance [I’m having as much fun writing this without normal critical restraints as they must’ve had doing the record!].
The nearest thing to the Bad Seeds established panoramic ouvre is the balladic ‘Man in The Moon’, a mournful account of a kid who’s lost his astronaut dad to outer space. You might think Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ - but I’ve got an amazing album by 70s hallucino-folkers, Pearls Before Swine, whose own ‘Rocket Man’ also mined a similar sad tale to quite devastating effect. A beautiful calm before the storm as the clouds start gathering during the dense muted pulses and dark string-sheets of ‘When My Love Comes Down’. The whole glorious shithouse goes up in flames on the closing ‘Love Bomb’, a vicious ‘Sister Ray’-shagging stomper during which Cave manages to name-check Gardener’s Question Time amidst further guitar heroics where he even manages to wield the wah-wah. Crazed and slavering, the attack and energy is punk rock of the highest order. This album sounds like it’s on heat.
I’m not normally prone to doing track-by-track reviews but that’s the only way I could do this remarkably enjoyable roller coaster any justice. Fucking wings will burst out of your back.
Kris ‘Over The Top’ Needs – tMx 28 – 01/07
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