Grinderman 2: The Muddy River of Fleshly Sins

Grinderman 2: The Muddy River of Fleshly Sins

I’m intimidated by the thought of writing about Nick Cave. There’s something so serious about an artist as complex and celebrated as he is. He’s been performing for decades. He has a dedicated, sophisticated fan base. He invites and inspires extremely thoughtful criticism with every new project.

I can write about Grinderman 2, however. It’s a noisy, kick-ass rock record, and I know my way around that kind of thing.

The opening song, “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man” is a perfect choice to start the record.  The rhythm section is strikingly reminiscent of the Jesus Lizard’s finest moments, the guitar playing is vicious, and the vocals are pure Cave. I recently cranked this up on the hi-fi after a bad day at work and it absolutely delivered me from evil. At least, a certain kind of evil.  (The Song “Evil” is also a 100mph banger.) This is not a morally righteous collection of songs.  Sex, Lechery and Violence are front and center in this band.  Nick Cave and AC/DC are from the same country after all.

Of course, being a Cave project, there’s a lot more to it than that. Consider the band name. Contrary to popular imagery, the Grindermen of years past did not depend upon the gratitude of a music-loving public for their livelihood. They sat in one place with those fucking music boxes and tortured everyone in the listening area until their suffering audience finally paid up.  They were notorious for doing it at night, underneath apartment buildings. They were finally outlawed.

The Grinderman songs conjure up lots of unwelcome, undesirable thoughts. Monsters are rampant, victims are found, and the lust is selfish and possessive. It comes to a head during “Kitchenette”. Cave sings his horniness to a married woman. Her husband, the sleeping “executioner”, is “sleeping with a fireman’s axe”. The narrator is not exactly a knight in shining armor; he reminds the hapless wife that she has “the ugliest fuckin’ kids I’ve ever seen”. The men in her life leave much to be desired.

But by the next song, “Palaces of Montezuma”, Cave seems to have faced up to the intolerable Grinderman who dominates the first seven songs of this album. In a beautiful, Bad Seeds-sounding “psychedelic invocation”, Cave exorcizes the monstrous side of his desire and asks for  “precious love to hold”. He seems to have found some serenity.

The final song on the album, “Bellringer Blues”, loops psychedelically towards the conclusion that the haunted, anxious Cave can ultimately manage all of this stuff just fine, thank you, and he is willing to do it on his own terms. He ends the album singing, “It’s okay Joe it’s time to go!”

With Grinderman 2, Nick Cave and his band have recorded a challenging, provocative collection of well-written, well-performed rock ‘n’ roll songs. It looks stripped down and primitive, but it ain’t. It’s actually pretty amazing.

Smells Like:

Stephen Bellinger
6 Comments
  • Gene
    Posted at 19:45h, 30 December Reply

    I’ve been reluctant to give this record a fair shake – despite being a Cave fan – due to the fact that they avoided playing Portland :(…

    However, I’ll put the dis aside, give it another shot. Sounds like a record I need these days…thank goodness my kids are ok to look at, and that my wife is a saint

    • David
      Posted at 00:55h, 04 January Reply

      Indeed!

  • David
    Posted at 19:57h, 30 December Reply

    The video for Heathen Child (nsfw) has the Grindermen acting in over-the-top literal interpretations of the lyrics that are both silly and scary, complete with crotch-shot laser blasts, monsters, naked girls in bathtubs and Jesus as a naked black woman. Are the Grindermen sent by Zeus or Hades? For protection or destruction?

  • Gene
    Posted at 23:48h, 04 January Reply

    I think this video would effectively accompany most of the new Kanye West songs, too!

  • Debbie
    Posted at 19:20h, 13 January Reply

    What I like the best about the Nick Cave of late is that he’s damn funny. His overwrought narratives and lecherous physicality are now touched with a bawdy symbolism and physical slapstick that give his work the levity it’s been begging for all these years. The new Nick Cave is pitch perfect. After 20 years of listening with respectful regard I’ve now graduated to being a wide-eyed, adoring fan. Luv ya Nicky!

  • Stephen
    Posted at 02:50h, 19 January Reply

    The comment about his sense of humor is right on. In the vinyl version of the album, there’s a poster of the band members in their underpants and gladiator uniforms looking bored on the set. Yet the hand-lettered greeting, “To All Our Fans — Love, Grinderman X” is total boy-band style. Pretty funny.

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