grinderman2

The hype surrounding the second record from Grinderman – the stripped-down, balls-out rock incarnation of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – is not your standard album build-up schtick. Since July, 30-second “trailers” for the record have been appearing on YouTube, depicting (among other things) a beautiful nymphet emerging from milky bathwater, a wolf pacing around a penthouse suite and, most nightmarishly of all, a red-eyed cheerleader grinning wildly through bleeding gums. Each finishes with ‘Grinderman 2’ bulleted across the screen and “COMING SOON” fading up from the darkness. Disquieting, cinematic and darkly funny, the clips capture the loose cannon spirit of this album, despite not containing any of its music – like their first record, this is an album of theatrical villainy and stylised gore, but unlike that LP there’s now more poise to the carnage; a sense of intent rather than freewheeling madness. The visual touchstone for the debut was a picture of a masturbating monkey on the sleeve – this time round it’s luxuriously produced and wonderfully subversive films.

But if Grinderman have become less feral in their approach, they’re no less tough when they want to be. Opening track ‘Mickey Mouse & the Goodbye Man’ is a glorious statement of intent, a five-minute hissy fit of feedback and squall that sees Cave and a mystery accomplice perform doubtless murky acts on an unsuspecting lady. Similarly, ‘Heathen Child’’s repeated chant of “You think your husband/wife/children/government will protect you? You are wrong!” is brilliantly urgent, and the satanic snarl of ‘Evil’ is all the darker for the band’s newfound composure.

Most impressive, however, is the album’s centrepiece. When ‘My Baby Comes, She Comes’ starts as a slyly gyrating samba complete with gypsy fiddle-playing and rueful lyrics (“has anyone out there wasted their lives / On booze and drugs and husbands and wives”), before erupting into a slackened, super-heavy swamp groove that’s the aural equivalent of watching horrendously captivating replays of ultra-violence in super slow-mo. Compositionally accomplished, expertly played and, to slip into the vernacular for a moment, rocking like a motherfucker, it’s an awesome recording – a hardened criminal compared with the first album’s petty thieves.

It’s not all serious though. While admittedly there isn’t a ‘No Pussy Blues’ moment here, ‘Worm Tamer’’s treatise on premature ejaculation – “my baby calls me the Loch Ness monster / Two humps and then I’m gone” – and maintains Cave’s form for witty self-deprecation, while ‘Kitchenette’’s executioner, with glass eye and false teeth, is pleasingly daft. But the more serious tone is a reflection of a stronger record: Cave has scored two films since the last Grinderman album, and that process has clearly rubbed off on his noisiest, hairiest project, making it bolder and grander. The sense of abandon remains, but ‘Grinderman 2’’s more calculating malevolence makes it even more exhilarating.

By Sam Walton

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