Grinderman: Grinderman 2 (EMI)

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Grinderman: Kitchenette
Grinderman: Grinderman 2 (EMI)

The black wings beat at the window and there is a smell of sulphur in this dark southern land where crazed prophets and murderous mountain men walk . . . From a distance, through the leafless trees comes what sounds like the voice of judgement and doom. A man in black is declaiming filthy sex and raw passion, killing and redemption.

Must be Nick Cave, right?

Ever since he left the Birthday Party in 84, suited up and hunkered down – first with heroin and decadent Berlin, later with the Bad Seeds, the Bible and dark blues – Cave has cut a singular path through rock music. Sometimes he has shed followers – and at rare times (as in '96 when he had a minor hit with Kylie Minogue, Where the Wild Roses Grow) picked up a few new converts.

Cave today – 52, married, a father of three who goes to his office every day to write, and has honorary degrees from universities in Dundee and Melbourne – is a very different man from the one who dragged his songs onto a stage and thrashed them with a whip of rage in the early Eighties.

Among his recent albums have been the subdued if menacing soundtrack to The Road with Seeds' violinist/pianist Warren Ellis.

Of course Cave is never going to entirely abandon the fire that fuels him and two years ago he was the mainman behind Grinderman, a visceral (and often very funny) blues-rock band which included Ellis, and Seeds Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos.

The band name said it all: bandsaw-edged blues, songs about sex, searing post-grunge guitars and declaimed songs . . . but there was also black humour scattered throughout to leaven the load. You would have been unwise to have taken No Pussy Blues and Depth Charge Ethel too seriously.

Grinderman are back and that blend of dark humour, metal blues and fierce rage are back too.

At times on Grinderman 2 Cave sounds like an especially annoyed Jim Morrison arc-welded onto the Sixties garageband metal of Blue Cheer, but again weird stories are thrown out and an oddball cast appears: Mickey Mouse, the Loch Ness monster, Oprah, actors Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen, Mata Hari, JFK (rhymed with “negligee”) . . .

The centrepiece What I Know allows you to take a breath as Cave recounts quietly how he has grown – but then the band is let off the leash again for the ear-searing Evil and the mock blues imagery of Kitchenette. As with the first Grinderman album, as you cower in the corner you can't help but smile.

Remember that story about the guy who was granted three wishes, wasted his first two and then – just before he used his final wish – learned his son had been killed in a horrible accident. He'd fallen into a grinder at work and been mashed.

He wishes his son were alive and late that night he hears a scratching at the lock and howling at the door. It is his son, back from the dead – but also back from the grinder.

Grinderman is back too. Scratching at the lock and howling at the door, carrying a snake . . . and wearing a clown's cap.

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