Nick Cave used to be foreign territory for me. No excuses. I just never got around to listening to much of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. But after discovering his new side group, Grinderman, and Cave’s distinct voice and dark style, I wanted to listen to everything he had ever done. The Grinderman self-titled debut was a way for Cave to record some songs he had been writing on guitar (which he rarely plays), and the result was a raw and unadulterated force. A roommate put “No Pussy Blues” on a mix for me, and it blew me away.
Now, Grinderman returns with a fantastic, more psychedelic follow-up to their 2007 debut. Grinderman 2 keeps some of the raw power that was heard on the last record but turns more to stoner rock. The results aren’t as good, but hot damn is it still pretty solid.
The dark and dirty bass and guitars are prevalent throughout the entire album, but they are showcased in songs like lead single “Heathen Child”. The ominous, shaking guitar swells give you a preview of what is about to come—a terrifying tale of a young girl “sitting in a bathtub, suckin’ her thumb,” waiting on her lover? Her fate? Whatever it might be, I don’t want to be there when it happens. When the chorus hits, the guitars become even more soaring and searing, and Cave’s voice acts the part perfectly, as he growls out, “She’s a heathen child.” As the song goes on, Cave warns, “You think your great big husband will protect you? You were wrong.” And I believe him.
The dirt shows up again on “Evil”. As Cave sneers out the last of the simple repeat of “Oh, baby, baby, baby,” the drums and guitars burst in a scream of noise and environment. As the verses come in, the guitars squelch and echo in the background in a way that reminds me of how The Chinese Stars can bend and force notes from a guitar that I didn’t think were possible. “Evil” is relentless and racing throughout and could easily fit on a horror film soundtrack.
For the majority of the album, however, Cave and Co. play their own brand of swirling stoner rock. There are some songs where it gets to be a bit too much, but Cave’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics save some tracks from a jamming hell—like “Worm Tamer” with the great line “You know my baby calls me the loch ness monster. Two big humps and then I’m gone.” Also great are “When My Baby Comes” and album opener “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man”—the latter of which combines the debut album’s force with the new record’s sound to create another menacing story of the morning after in some kind of Rob Zombie movie.
The psychedelic works for the most part but gets a little boring after a while. However, it definitely shouldn’t scare you away from listening to the album. If you are a fan of Nick Cave at all, then you will definitely love Grinderman 2. His darkness and eeriness is surpassed by none, and yet somehow it makes me want to dance so hard.