Song: “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)”
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There is perhaps no more rare an occurrence in the history of music than that of the rock-style band that gets better and heavier with age. Most of the time, as performers age, their music becomes more mellow and the edge that once defined them seems to become a thing of the past. Thankfully, nobody told that to Australian rock-god, Nick Cave. Having spent nearly three decades fronting the likes of The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, Cave unleashed his most volatile and musically stunning project in years when he premiered his most recent outfit, Grinderman, in 2007. Their self-titled debut that year shook the music world and severed as proof and a warning call that pure, raw, and unapologetic rock and roll was still alive and kicking, as each song on the record easily outshined nearly everything else that had been released in years from any genre. From the punishing, roaring guitars to the amazing presence that “is” Nick Cave, it seemed that though they had aged in years, the band members still had the energy and attitude of musicians more than half their age. This, in many ways, is what makes Grinderman so extraordinary; as they have the talent and maturity of veteran rockers, by the spirit of their music remains unquestionably youthful. Though there are some reflective moments on Grinderman that showcase the quiet, yet equally intense moods that Cave has perfected over the years, it is in the albums’ more wild, almost unhinged rockers were the band is clearly at their best. Though nearly every song on Grinderman is nothing short of rock and roll perfection, everything that makes this band so magnificent can be found in Grinderman’s 2007 song, “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars).”
The moment the song begins, the urgency therein is like nothing that had been heard anywhere in years. The almost alarm-like guitar note that starts the song before Cave drops in the background with a punk rock “one, two, three, four” serves as the perfect lead-in to this borderline chaotic musical masterpiece. The team of Cave and multi-instrumentalist and Bad Seed, Warren Ellis, have rarely sounded as good as they do here, as the guitar mixes brilliantly with the pounding keyboards. This combination has an amazing potency, and the way they weave through and around one another creates an all-out musical assault that captures everything there is to love about “real” rock music. There is an attitude deep within all the players, and it gives “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)” a fantastic swagger that in many ways defines Grinderman. The rhythm section of bassist Martyn Casey and drummer Jim Sclavunos build an almost nervous, fevered groove underneath, and this only raises the overall mood of the song to a level beyond words. Clearly there is a chemistry between the quartet, and one can make the case that this was further explored on The Bad Seeds 2007 release, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!. The distortion during the bridge sections is almost overwhelming, As the song moves into the final section, the group sounds as if they are about to spin out of control, bringing an energy and sound indicative of their explosive live performances, and this is much the reason that “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)” now serves as the high-water mark for which all bands looking to play the “garage” sound now strive.
Having his work cut out for him to keep the energy and mood at such a high level, Nick Cave proves that though many may try to best him, he still stands as one of the most mesmerizing and brilliantly raw frontmen in music history. His voice, which still knows no boundaries in terms of range, has rarely sounded better, and it is clear that there is a deep connection with each of these songs. The attitude in his performance is absolutely stunning, as Cave manages to capture the wild abandon perfected by Iggy Pop with a strange soul that gives a nod to his roots in the blues. There is also a feel that all of Grinderman is very much a long extension from his years in The Birthday Party, and one can easily connect the attitude within the music to those years. Furthermore, Cave has always had a flare for the dramatic, and his uncanny sense of vocal theatrics are as present on “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)” as anywhere else in his vast catalog. Seeming to coax the listener to join the band in their frenzied pace, Cave shows a superb sense of timing, as he drops the lyrics in when he sees fit, often clashing with the “normal” rhythmic flow that one expects. It is this amazing combination of presence and unique timing and expression that makes Nick Cave such an icon, and there are few better examples of his legendary talent then on “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars).”
Simply put, there was no way one could have been prepared for the avalanche of rock and roll mastery that Nick Cave and three Bad Seeds injected into the world in the form of 2007’s Grinderman. Combining their shared decades of musical experience, the group took a “show up and play” approach to the record, as opposed to more formal writing sessions beforehand. Clearly, this worked to their advantage, and the raw and unplanned nature of the music comes through in every song. Deploying wild progressions and perfectly balanced distortion, Grinderman stands as one of the most invigorating albums ever released. Even on first listen, one cannot help but “rock out” to nearly every song, and this stands true even to those who have never experienced any of Cave’s previous projects. It is this single fact that solidifies the overall greatness of both the band and record, and it is almost unfathomable that such a musical achievement could come so far into Cave’s already legendary career. On “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars),” the band throws all expectations and inhibitions to the side, and the song reaffirms that at its core, rock and roll needs to have a certain element of fun for it to be done properly. The fact that the quartet are loving the songs they are playing comes through clearly on every track, and this adds to the level of energy and authenticity that persists through every song. Redefining themselves as musicians and proving that the true spirit of rock and roll is alive and well, Grinderman’s 2007 self-titled debut is beyond “required listening” for all music fans, and everything that makes this album so monumental can be found in their phenomenal song, “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars).”