Lead single from Grinderman’s second album “Heathen Child” and b-side “Star Charmer” prove to be quite an odd choice for a lead single. I don’t mean musically – the instruments all kick proverbial bottom, it’s the lyrics that are the oddity. Cave is renowned in all his projects to include a heavy narrative in all his lyrics, a factor missing from “Heathen Child.” When one would expect to be told why the person in question is a heathen child, we’re only given vague clues; “She’s sitting in the bathtub/ scared lonely,” and “I don’t care about Buddha/ I don’t care about Krishna.” Usually Cave is almost talking over his songs, explaining the tiniest detail. It’s a testament to the man that he’s able to write a compelling song while moving away from his narrative song.
Musically it’s standard Grinderman fare, which is no bad thing. Minimalist verses with the odd fuzzed guitar line thrown in explode into a full band workout jam during the chorus, the guitars layered so they create the effect of some kind of chorus of mad animals and primal humans screaming and wailing.
B-side “Star Charmer” is a far more relaxed affair than the A-side. Lyrically, it’s quite the departure from “Heathen Child,” being far more wordy and descriptive. The lyrics portray a more tender, solemn and reflective Grinderman rather than the hilarious and horny band we’ve come to expect, another welcome side to the band. The music is stirring with violins taking centre stage rather than the jagged and raw guitars that usually occupy a song, which on reflection is a much better choice to compliment the lyrics. A verse like “As you slid from my fingertips, left me here on the burning shore. Searched and searched, are you worth so much? More than you were I thought you were. Everything you believed I still carry with me breaking down on the burning shore,” just wouldn’t work with Grinderman’s usual instrumentation.
It’s hard to talk about Grinderman without centring on Nick Cave’s lyrics and vocals seeing as they drive the band, and any other Nick Cave project forward. They are the centrepiece. It’s Grinderman’s sense of melody to go with those wonderful lyrics that elevate this band over any of their alternative/garage rock peers, a sense that is perfectly displayed on the “Heathen Child” single. One wonders if we’ll ever need another Bad Seeds record if Grinderman continue releasing singles, and subsequently albums, like this.