Many treated the first Grinderman LP as a dalliance, a middle-aged testosterone-fuelled anomaly that Nick Cave and cohorts had to get out of their system between Bad Seeds albums. In the intervening years both Cave and Warren Ellis have continued to strenuously assert that it is an ongoing project that runs parallel to their day job rather than being treated as a lesser child.
By naming the album Grinderman 2 they are again pushing the sense of continuity of the band and instead of the sequel being a watered down version of the first record, like many films tend to be, it is instead an evolution – deeper, darker, funnier and more disturbing than it’s predecessor.
From the opener ‘Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man’ it is clear that the quartet are again intent on embracing depravity with fantastical scenes of cannibalism, bat-faced girls and lupine children. Ellis is Cave’s permanent sidekick now and here he wrings out gleeful pig-like squeals, screams and angry flashes of demonic sonic squalls like a post-punk take on Angus Young’s accents on ‘Jailbreak’. It is an assertive scene-setter for an album that builds and mutates from that point on.
Cave seems particularly taken with mythical creatures and their real and imagined manifestation in all of us. He sings of snake charmers, the Loch Ness Monster, abominable snowmen and spider goddesses. Not content to deal only in fantasy figures he also takes aim at established religious figureheads like Allah, Buddha and Krishna on ‘Heathen Child’ – a tale of coming of age and the formation of one’s beliefs.
‘When My Baby Comes’ is perhaps the highpoint of the album. A looped collage of disconcerting yet strangely warming sounds providing a bed for Cave to sing intimate and gentle insinuations of rape and violence. There aren’t many who can weave abhorrent human behaviour into hypnotically seductive music so effectively.
The bawdy sleaze of Cave’s novel The Death of Bunny Munro makes an appearance on ‘Kitchenette’, an excuse for Cave to indulge in his married housewife-baiting fantasies, replete with Cave-isms like “Oprah Winfrey on a plasma screen” and the subject’s “brood of jug-eared buck-toothed imbeciles.” Built on a slow groove it is yet another song that cleverly balances the elements of perv and poise.
For those looking for something akin to The Bad Seeds then the love song ‘Palaces of Montezuma’ is the one. An attempt to qualify the value of love, it swings sweetly like the shuffling pop moments on ‘Lyre of Orpheus’ and is in many ways a welcome reprieve from the sordid yet satisfying dissonance across most of the record. Though it feels slightly out of place, it does serve to illustrate that at the heart of Cave’s writing is the mystery of love – as tragedy, addiction and redemption.
The collaborative writing process of all four Grindermen and the mantra that ‘anything and everything goes’ is what separates the band from their other work. With album number two they have both expanded and refined the way they construct their music and once more Cave has shown that he is still stalking and hunting his muse with malevolent intent.