Graham Reid | | 2 min read
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
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
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
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
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.