AOTW: Grinderman

I dreaded writing this article.

Not because Grinderman isn’t amazing, boundary-pushing, urgently relevant music but because it means attempting to write about the music legend Nick Cave.  Nick Cave belongs to a category of musicians that I have filed in my mind as “The Dark Daddies” (just humor me) whose melodic and lyric talents paint the underbelly of human experience with masterfully vicious strokes. Cave is joined in this category by the greats you might expect to find there:  Waits, Cohen, Cash and, more recently, Taylor Kirk (aka Timber Timbre) and Bonnie “Prince” Billy.  These men are, along a sliding spectrum, seedy prophets of the condition of our collective human soul.

But what, you might wonder, does this have to do with Grinderman? Grinderman is the relatively new musical project of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Same members, very different sound. Where The Bad Seeds can be woeful and even gentle in their examination of the darker impulses, Grinderman’s tools are feedback, heavy guitar, blending ‘70s psychedelia a la Jefferson Airplane with hints of metal. Less in the music itself, the metal influence shows most clearly in the band’s lyrics, visual persona and identity.

Just watch their latest video for the single “Heathen Child,” from their sophomore release Grinderman 2, out Sept. 13th on Mute, and you will be immersed in an extended series of ghoulish, grizzly scenes, anchored in the self-discovery and sexual/spiritual awakenings of a young girl. With references to Oprah Winfrey, Mickey Mouse, JFK and Marilyn, and a host of other cultural icons, Cave turns pop fodder into scenes of domestic disturbance packing, as always, a critical punch to mankind.

Cave has always had a taste for writing about passion, loss and obsessions or, as he puts it, “Chicks.  Death.  Love.” With Grinderman, those themes take a turn for the (more) twisted, as though the band needed to release pent-up angst that simply couldn’t be contained within the ballads of The Bad Seeds. The new project also seems to allow them musical freedom to step outside the bounds of The Bad Seeds’ sound, throwing all rules out the window and seeing how much they can get away with. Cave even strapped on an electric guitar for the first time with Grinderman, a move that resulted in an uneasy strengthening of his guitar talents. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cave voices concern that:  “… the better you get, the more you just start sounding like an ordinary guitarist…  I think I had actually more of a ‘sound’ when I didn’t know how to play guitar than I do now that I kind of know how to play.” He then moves on to reassure that, lest things get too normal, the new album’s tracks also include experimental noise created with mandolin, violin and tenor guitar.

All in all, this no longer side, but secondary project of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds seems to provide these already talented musicians with a new playground on which to discover, disturb and electrify their audience. The men seem to view their work as Grinderman with a certain delicious mischief, going so far as to open for themselves during the Australian leg of Grinderman’s first tour in 2007 (achieving the secret dream of all musicians inclined towards ironic audacity). While they may not be doing back-to-back sets on this tour, it’s still certain to be an unforgettable concert experience. I mean, come on, Nick Cave.  What more do I have to say?

Stay tuned to BTR’s programming for tracks from Grinderman all week long!

Grinderman LIVE!!
Oct 4 – Les Docks – Lausanne, Switzerland
Oct 5 – Volkshaus – Zurich, Switzerland
Oct 6 – Live – Milan, Italy
Oct 7 – Atlantico – Rome, Italy
Oct 9 – Krizanke – Ljubljana, Slovenia
Oct 10 – Gasometer – Vienna, Austria
Oct 11 – Muffathalle – Munich, Germany
Oct 13 – Haus Auensee – Leipzig, Germany
Oct 14 – C-Halle – Berlin, Germany
Oct 15 – E-Werk – Cologne, Germany
Oct 17 – Ancienne Belgique SOLD OUT – Brussels, Belgium
Oct 18 – Ancienne Belgique SOLD OUT – Brussels, Belgium
Oct 20 – Muziekcentrum Vredenburg – Utrecht, Netherlands
Oct 21 – Docks – Hamburg, Germany
Oct 23 – Falkoner Theatre – Copenhagen, Denmark
Oct 24 – Vaerket – Randers, Denmark
Oct 26 – Cite de la Music – Paris, France
Oct 28 – Groningen De Oosterpoort – DA Groningen, Netherlands

Click to hear “Palaces of Montezuma” from Grinderman II:

– Britt Sondreal

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