Friday, March 20, 2009

March 20: Grinderman, "Grinderman"

Artist: Grinderman
Album: Grinderman
Year: 2007
Label: Anti

Knowing myself as well as I do (which is pretty damn good), I will say that it's extremely likely that the first artist/band to make a "legitimate" second appearance in this blog is going to be Nick Cave. Whether working as a solo artist, The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds, or Grinderman, Nick Cave is simply in a category all to his own.

That being said, after releasing a double disc showing how beautifully he could still compose melodies and ballads (Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus), it was quite clear that Nick Cave needed to cut loose and get back to his roots. Grabbing a trio of Bad Seeds members (that's three of a possible seven for those of you scoring at home), the new band entered the studio and recorded what can be seen as the beginning of the second wind of Cave's career. Each and every member of Grinderman is in prime form, and Cave is as good as ever on the groups' only disc to date, their self titled 2007 release.

This incarnation of Nick Cave's backing band have the sound and energy of a bunch of teenagers playing in the garage until their mom comes home. Grinderman is a a loud, wild rock affair and the album never relents, even in its more meandering songs. The usual themes of women, women, and occasionally, women are present, as they have been throughout the decades of Cave's recording career. Grinderman features a number of different approaches to the subject of women, from the can't-impress-them-enough ("Get It On") to outright love ("Honey Bee (Let's Fly To Mars)") to pining for the love of a street walker ("Depth Charge Ethel.") Much like all of the great songwriters, Nick Cave and turn a phrase with lines like, "To kiss Ethel is like drinking the stars/But do not kiss her, make you come unglued...So if you want a piece of her, you better get in there fast/Right now there's a ticketbox and a queue..."

Musically, Grinderman, as a band, have explored so much musical territory in their combined bands that it is not surprising just how much variety and skill is on the record. The band is able to produce creepy, lulling, yet animated songs as well as they can blow the doors off with as fierce a rock and roll song as you'll find anywhere. It is obvious that, even though they are having a blast i the studio, they are all disciplined enough musicians that things to not get out of hand and become cliche. The band has the spirit of a garage band, yet the fact is, when they get into the groove, they are as powerful a rock group that there has ever been. At some points on the record, they sound like the love-child of The Stooges, Suicide, and Little Richard. To put it simply, when Grinderman gets going, it is nearly impossible not to turn the volume up to eleven.

Throughout Grinderman, one thing is very clear: Nick is having a blast singing all of the lyrics. Even when he is snarling and screaming, you can tell that he is doing so with a huge grin on his face. As he has done his entire career, Cave contributes a variety of vocal styles on the record. Sometimes, he speaks in the manner of the beat poets, sometimes he is almost a mock lounge singer, while at other times, his powerful singing is so good that you wonder why he isn't the biggest rock star on the planet. Along with is voice, Grinderman contains some of Cave's most genius lyrics to date. He probes inside himself and reveals dark, but true inner thoughts and crafts them into dazzling lyrics. While many will try and disregard the merit of a song like "No Pussy Blues," if you can get past the title, it is undeniably one of the most brilliant lyrics of male frustration that has ever been written.

Nick Cave has been making music in his own, somewhat strange, fashion for nearly thirty years. Over this time span, he has proven himself as one of the foremost lyricists of his generation and certainly one of its finest singers as well. After a solid, yet perhaps dreary Bad Seeds record, he formed a new band and they donned the name Grinderman. There is no doubt that my absolute, hands-down, no question-about-it favorite album of the past nine years is Grinderman's self-titled debut. I am aware that this is a VERY lofty statement, but the fact remains true. Since then new decade began, there simply has not been a single record that has even come close to being as absolutely stunning as Grinderman. If you don't own it, get it. It's that simple.

Standout tracks: "No Pussy Blues," "Depth Charge Ethel," and "Love Bomb."

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