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Album review: Grinderman, 'Grinderman 2'

September 14, 2010 | 11:49 am

51wtfxe4FmL__SS500_ Be it as a songwriter, screenwriter ("The Proposition") or novelist ("The Death of Bunny Munro," "And the Ass Saw the Angel"), Australian singer Nick Cave is a man of words, and he excels at constructing unforgettable scenes filled with emotions at the edge, whether anger, obsession, vindication, degradation, regret or some combination thereof.

Case in point: The purest love song on "Grinderman 2," the second album from Cave’s newest band, is called "Evil," and it’s set in a rented hotel room where the narrator’s clinging to a lover. "Who needs the stars?" he wonders affectionately. "You are the stars." It’s a beautiful sentiment, except that as he’s listing all the things she’s replaced --  the moon, TV, children -- voices behind him are screaming, "Evil rising!," while at the other end of a phone line a man is breathing heavily. Ah, love.

In the three decades-plus that Cave has been making music -- whether as the frenzied singer of both Boys Next Door and the Birthday Party, or with his long-running backing band the Bad Seeds -- he has been a blues singer in the John Lee Hooker vein, a weirdo pop crooner recalling Lee Hazlewood and a flat-out rocker a la Iggy Pop. On "Grinderman 2," he combines them all to create a maniacal egotist who proudly boasts on "Worm Tamer" that "my baby calls me the Loch Ness monster / Two great big humps and then I’m gone."

Throughout the album, Cave’s band lets loose with a din of electric guitars and heavy bass. If at times he leans on conceits that he’s overused in the past -- he dots his narratives with creeps such as the executioner with a glass eye on "Kitchenette," and too often sets his songs in the Wild West -- his skill at crafting work drenched with the blood and tears of human flaws remains unparalleled, and makes "Grinderman 2" an essential rock and roll document.

-- Randall Roberts


"Grinderman 2"


Three and a half stars