CD review: Grinderman – 2; Playing Variety Playhouse, November 18


By Al Kaufman

Nick Cave and Halloween go together like Christmas and Santa. Even when he’s not sporting the porn star mustache, there are none more creepy than Nick Cave. When part of Grinderman, Cave turns his creepiness up a notch or five. It’s almost as if Cave had been holding back all those years with the Bad Seeds, when he sang songs about getting hard-ons while murdering a woman. With Grinderman (same musicians, different band), Cave peels away any reservations with glorious glee.

2 is hard, heavy, and in your face. Guitar riffs shake walls behind lyrics such as “We sucked her and we sucked and we sucked her dry” (“Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man”). After Warren Ellis’s Fendocaster opens “Heathen Child” with a nuclear attack warning wail, Cave cautions, “You think your husband will protect you? You are wrong.”

Sure there’s romance in here as well. What girl would not swoon after receiving the gift of “The spinal cord of JFK/Wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligee,” as Cave offers in “Palaces of Montezuma”? And only Cave could woo a married woman by telling her that her husband has given her “the ugliest kids I’ve ever seen,” as he does on “Kitchenette,” which includes some fabulous bubbling over guitar and bass, courtesy of Ellis and Martyn Casey.

If this all seems over the top, that’s because it is. Grinderman luxuriates in it. Imagine Johnny Cash (who covered Cave’s “Mercy Seat”) as a lounge lizard with heavy metal tendencies, and you have some idea of where Grinderman comes from. Sounds and grooves rush together in a flurry of noise, melody and pure emotion. Creepy choir sounds, hisses and crackles, and other Halloween sounds all make an appearance or two. Cave does his best Pentecostal preacher routine as he pleads to a girl that she is his world, while the rest of the band, over clashing guitars, simply shout out “Evil.”

Grinderman is subversive and seductive, hideous and hilarious, morbid and musical. It’s great stuff.

Grinderman play Variety Playhouse on November 18.


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