Grinderman | Grinderman 2 (Anti-)

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Grinderman 2 is easily one of the best releases of the year.

In 2007 Nick Cave released the self-titled debut from his dirty old man side project Grinderman, and its release seemed to refresh his creative juices. Not that he needed it—he’s easily been one of the most reliable musicians of the past several decades. The first Grinderman was great, but that was thanks in large part to its opening two tracks, “Get It On” and the incredible “No Pussy Blues,” with some of the rest of the album seeming like filler, albeit above-average filler. His 2008 release under his usual Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds moniker, Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, was his best in about a decade, so it seems that the Grinderman thing did its job. But now we have Grinderman 2, which is pretty much what it sounds like, except that it is way better than you would ever expect—and any right-thinking person would expect it to be good.
Like Grinderman 1, Grinderman 2 is front-loaded with its best songs, but where it differs is that the rest of the album is almost as good. And also, it’s the first three this time that are incredible: “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man,” “Worm Tamer,” and “Heathen Child”; the latter being the one with the fantastic music video directed by The Road’s John Hillcoat (go to grinderman.com to watch it if you haven’t already seen it—it’ll make your day, I promise, but note that it is kind of R-rated). Outside of the context of the music video, which in all honesty is so good it kind of overshadows the song, you realize what a great song “Heathen Child” really is. And it gives Cave an opportunity to display some great, sleazy lyrics, for which Grinderman are getting increasingly known (example: he describes the child in question as “sitting in the bathtub/ full of her fingers”). Of course the other songs ably display this talent as well; I’m partial to the line, “Well, my baby calls me the Loch Ness Monster/ Two great big humps then I’m gone,” from “Worm Tamer.” Later on in the album we have the already much-quoted “Kitchenette,” which contains the Spinal Tap-esque “I stick my fingers in your biscuit jar/ And crush all your gingerbread men,” delivered in Cave’s best sleazy croon.
In addition to a vinyl release and the obligatory MP3 download, Grinderman 2 is being released in two different packages on CD—a bare bones regular edition and a deluxe edition, that, while containing the same disc, has an extended booklet, a poster and a nicer case to house it all in. I recommend springing the extra couple of dollars for the deluxe, if only because you’re going to be poking through these lyrics a lot, and it’s nice to have them bound like a book with illustrative pictures. Aside from the acknowledged fact of how great a lyricist Cave is, the lyrics are worth reading in the booklet if only for their punctuation; namely the use of exclamation points. From “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man,” quoted exactly as they appear in the booklet: “I was Mickey Mouse. He was the Big Bad Wolf!” From “When My Baby Comes”: “Listen to me talking in my hospital gown!” You get the idea.
Strangely enough, I have so far failed to mention what part of me thinks is the best track on the album, “Palaces of Montezuma,” which is second-to-last on the record. I’m have trouble filing this one away in my mind; it is inarguably brilliant, but it isn’t much like the rest of Grinderman’s output, nor is it really like any of Cave’s back catalogue, either. For one thing, it wouldn’t seem out of place on most rock/pop/alternative/whatever radio stations; in other words, it sounds like a crossover hit. Also, it is weirdly… pretty? Can that be true of a Grinderman song? “When My Baby Comes” is kind of pretty, too, in its own way, but it still fits in the Grinderman milieu easily enough. “Palaces of Montezuma” doesn’t—it’s too accessible, too poppy. But brilliant! And while the refrain of “Oh c’mon baby, let’s get out of the cold/ And give me give me give me your precious love for me to hold” is as pretty as the song around it, if you listen closely to the rest of the lyrics (or read your booklet) you’ll find that Cave maybe hasn’t strayed away as far as it sounds, with stuff like “The spinal cord of JFK/ Wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligee/ I give to you” tucked away in there.
That is to say, Grinderman 2 is easily one of the best releases of the year, and deserves a much wider audience than it will probably find. I’m thinking a lot of people will be scared away by the refrain of “And he sucked her and he sucked her and he sucked her dry” on the opening track; that’s okay, though, as if they are, they don’t deserve this great album anyway. A | Pete Timmermann
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