Thursday, December 9, 2010

Grinderman 2 - (2010)

When Grinderman released their debut in 2007, it sounded like Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos, and Martyn Casey created a reckless, drunken animal of an alter ego to their membership in the Bad Seeds. The album bridged territory mined by everyone from the Stooges to Suicide to Bo Diddley, and was full of wry, devilish humor and decadence. Apparently between album and tour they had a good enough time to cut a second album. Again recorded in the company of producer Nick Launay, Grinderman 2 is a more polished and studied affair than its predecessor, but it's also more sonically adventurous, and it's still a white-hot rock & roll record. The opening, "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man," comes closest to the songs on the previous album, but feels like it comes by way of Patti Smith's "Radio Ethiopia," Howlin' Wolf, and the Scientists. It's pure scummy, sleazy, in-the-red dissonant RAWK. The other material ranges from the swampy, ribald blues of "Kitchenette," where Casey's bass roils and coils around distorted, Echoplexed electric guitar, electric bouzouki, and jungle-like tom-toms and bass drums. Cave does his best lecher-in-heat blues howl -- if Charles Bukowski sang the blues, this is what it would sound like. "Worm Tamer" is a thundering coil of three-note vamps on electric guitar and violin, freaky organ sounds, and a lockstep rhythm section that threatens to take the entire thing off the rails from the jump, but purposely never does. While the controlled feedback suggests the earliest sounds of the Bad Seeds live, the layered harmony vocals and tautly held tension between rhythm and lead instruments -- all on stun -- betray more sophistication. The single "Heathen Child," with its darkly comedic lyrics built from the slithering, funky rhythm-section-down mix, is as infectious as it is blasphemous; Ellis' careening bouzouki is among the most threatening rock sounds to emerge from a stringed instrument in a dog's age. Grinderman can do a slow burn as well, as evidenced by the horny space rock drone on "When My Baby Comes." Nothing really prepares the listener for the closer, though. "Bellringer Blues" is where backmasked psych meets Loop, Spiritualized, and Ash Ra with dramatic flair and spooky chanted refrains. While it's easy to see why some listeners may prefer the completely unhinged sounds of Grinderman's debut, this set, with its expansive sonics and studied bombast, is still full of so much adrenaline, nastiness, and rock & roll sleaze that it stands in its own league and kicks serious ass. (

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