Review: Grinderman – Grinderman 2

No one really expected or needed Grinderman to turn into a real band. Their 2007 debut was an enthusiastically received record that absolutely nailed what it set out to do, but it never felt like anything more than a diversionary side project. The whole thing sounded more like an exercise than an album, with most of its pleasures stemming from the strength of its basic concept: Nick Cave doing his literate, leering lech routine over dirty Stooges guitar blasts.

The fact that it seemed like a one-off probably helped it’s case, too. Fans and critics both seemed to love the idea of Cave and a handful of Bad Seeds cutting loose. Would it have gotten the same treatment if it was a straight Seeds album? Not with half-baked songs like “Depth Charge Ethel” or the title track eating up the relatively short running time. Sure, “No Pussy Blues” is a flawless single, and “Get It On” and “Love Bomb” are almost as good, but there’s too much filler to shower the record in unqualified praise. As much as I enjoy the album, I would have probably told Cave to stick to his day job, especially when that day job is still capable of such incredible peaks (I might be lonely here, but I’d put Dig Lazarus Dig!! among the 5 best Bad Seeds records, and I say that as pretty huge fan).

I would have been very wrong. Grinderman 2 takes what was great about the first album and applies the careful song construction that’s always been a Bad Seeds hallmark. They now practice nuance disguised as blunt force.

Here’s the difference between the two albums: the Grinderman of the first album would have probably kept a song like “When My Baby Comes” in a holding pattern, staying in the slightly skewed blues mode established in the first minute or so. It would have been around 3 minutes, and it would have been a pretty good track. The new and improved Grinderman instead starts adding Warren Ellis’ violin to the mix, allows it to be unequivocally pretty, then at the halfway point blows the track up into a lumbering, psychedelic stomper that sounds like being caught in a windstorm. It runs 7 minutes, and it’s an awesome track.

The humor and attitude that made Grinderman so appealing is still there, it’s just packaged better. They’ve made a legitimately great album this time out, one that’s as good as anything else released this year. Let’s hope we get another one in 3 years.

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