Grinderman - Grinderman
Mute Records
Alt/Garage Rock
11 songs (40:03)
Release year: 2007
Mute Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

What always makes describing a side-project difficult is the extent to which you compare it to the members’ main band, especially true here with Grinderman, made up of members of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The band clearly wanted to make a statement out of the usual by forming a new project, yet so intense is the Bad Seeds’ influence on this that it’s hard to hear it as anything other than a variation on the sound we’re used to. There was an intent behind the project to get back to the raw, primal style of their Birthday Party-esque pasts, and whilst the band largely succeeds at this, so used am I to their ironic, mannered present that it’s hard to see this as much more than a curio, as good as it is when taken at face value. Even in regards to lyrics, this is their usual entertaining territory with small departures – No Pussy Blues, for example, details Cave’s slavish devotion to a woman, carrying out all sorts of chores for her, ‘but she just didn’t want to’, as he glumly puts it, with increasing annoyance.

The main musical departure is that Cave also plays guitar, a noisy, screeching instrument in his hands that comes to life at nearly random moments. There’s something almost noise rock in style about some of the moments – Depth Charge Ethel’s riffs and backing vocal ‘woo-woo’s go together remarkably well – yet other moments are much more gentle, such as Go Tell The Women, or grumpy ballad (I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free. Instrumentation aside from Cave’s guitar is smooth and expert, the members so familiar with each other by now that anything other than expert harmony would be a shock, and touches of Dirty Three-esque ethereal instrumental skills that pop up here and there remind you that this is made by the same people that put together the soundtracks to The Proposition, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and most recently The Road.

It’s hard to pick the best tracks out. The compelling racket made on Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars) is a personal favourite, although really a fan would be hard-pressed to find anything he didn’t enjoy, from the quietly intense When My Love Comes Down to the closing wildness of Love Bomb. What matters is the music; on release Grinderman was pretty much universally hailed by mainstream reviewers, ecstatic over Cave and co’s trip back in time on the occasion of the singer’s 50th birthday. They were full of praise for ‘old men rocking out disgracefully’, and this is easy to relate to for us Metalheads who worship the grizzled likes of Iron Maiden and Motörhead, yet the sheer intelligence of Grinderman’s self-aware paean to aging might be lost on some. What no-one will fail to recognise is the sheer solid quality of this album; not quite a must-have, but good enough to ensure that all will have a good time. Roll on Grinderman 2, out next month.

Killing Songs :
Get It On, No Pussy Blues, Go Tell The Women, Depth Charge Ethel, Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars), Love Bomb
Goat quoted 82 / 100
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