It’s generally accepted that rock stars don’t age well, struggling with fame and excess and continually failing to live up to their early glories (bands like Aerosmith and Metallica immediately spring to mind), but Nick Cave doesn’t play by the rules and never has. Experiencing something of a latter-day career revival, Cave – once a bit less prolific than he is today although never exactly one to sit on his ass for too long – is currently firing on all cylinders, having released one of the best albums of his career a couple years ago with Dig Lazarus Dig!!, and now returning to the Grinderman moniker with several of his Bad Seeds.
Grinderman 2 is every bit as filthy, dirty and fun as the first album was, but it’s perhaps just a bit less raucous: in place of fuzzy-guitar rawkers like “No Pussy Blues” you have darker and more somber tunes, such as the mid-tempo “When My Baby Comes,” which builds slowly into a rather epic and haunting clash of guitars, violins, an eerie choir and Cave’s repetitive chorus — the sort of mumbling, hushed chant he always does so disturbingly well.
That’s not to say that the album’s all serious and mature n’ shit. You’ve still got crude sexual innuendos, including the one that most critics keep citing in reviews of the record: “My baby calls me the Loch Ness Monster/ Two great big humps and then I cum.” Only Cave can really get away with some of this stuff and still maintain that tongue-in-cheek distance.
Warren Ellis, who has helped compose a few great film soundtracks with Cave recently, establishes a sound with his playing that veers wildly between garage rock, blues, psychedelia and who-knows-what. The band’s style is distinct enough that it’s hard to even really compare it to any other group than, well, maybe Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but that almost seems like a disservice to the style they have established here.
The album closes with the epic “Bellringer Blues,” one of the best songs Cave has recorded in years, and it’s a great way to sign off and leave listeners wanting more. (Grinderman 3? Yes, please.)
Ultimately, Cave and his band of mischievous cretins have proven once again that this is not merely the throwaway side project that it so predictably could have been – Grinderman is a tangible band, and their new album is a fun romp that, while not as musically decisive as the Bad Seeds, is certainly a testament to the fact that some rock stars just keep getting cooler.