The Grinderman: Nick Cave Makes Some of the Most Visceral Rock and Roll to Date

It was a few months ago when I first heard of the Grinderman, a new project from Nick Cave and a few of the members of this previous band, the Bad Seeds. It was only a slight mention in some music publication, nothing much that stood out but for some reason, the name Nick Cave rang a bell and the more I searched the more I saw this new project receiving a lot of hype on the Internet. I never listened to the Bad Seeds, or his earlier work with the Birthday Party, but both seemed to be kind of floating around in my mind for years, like the bands that you keep hearing their name's mentioned but never really listen to. Whatever reason it was, I took a quick glance at the Grinderman myspace page, bookmarked it and left it to sit in my queue or bands that I would eventually listen to.

Maybe a month passed or so and I got around to it, queued up the first track on the Grinderman myspace page and was greeted by a bombardment of scratching fuzzed out guitar, a bluesy sort of stomp and some of the rawest vocals perhaps ever committed to record. I didn't think that first listen really impressed me at the time, but it really left it's mark as I kept finding myself coming back to listen to it again and again and the other tracks as well.

The Grinderman had ground it's way right into my skull, and it wasn't getting out.

Trying to describe the Grinderman to someone is about akin to trying to describe a car crash. Both are starkly honest, often harsh, even repulsive, yet oddly compelling where you just can't look away as it haunts your thoughts, difficult for some to stomach and no matter how much you describe the various elements that make up the scene the effect is just not the same as experiencing it first hand.

I can't really tell you how the Grinderman compares to either the Bad Seeds or the Birthday Party as I haven't listened to either, but other people seem to point to this being far closer to a direct progression from the Birthday Party than the Bad Seeds. There are definite elements of "punkified" blues and garage rock in this music. The guitars that go from screeching and fuzzy to hypnotic in their wah pedal shifts, pounding slightly minimal percussion, pulsing bass, subtle occasional keyboards and psychedelic textures and the gritty vocals of Nick Cave himself, but there is more to it then that... A hypnotic drone, a fractured eastern flavored lick, a subtle beauty, a dark humor laced with intricate phrasing, wording and social comment...

What really strikes me about all the music I've heard by the Grinderman, is Nick Cave's lyrics and vocal delivery as although the music is a perfect fit for these words, they could also stand by themselves or in other scenarios. Lyrically there is some depth and subtlety that just seems like each word is perfect for the feel he's trying to convey, all very primal, seductive and visceral. He ranges from snarling spite, to subtle sadness, and although dark and quasi cynical, they aren't depressing, with dark humor and social comment laced in perfectly to be compelling.

Although other people might be able to write such lyrical lines, I don't think anyone can deliver them like Nick Cave. His deep growl has a the fire and brimstone feel of the early blues, but like he's preaching to the sinners of the world, and at the same time, the snarl and grit to really make these lines sting with authenticity.

I started listening to the Grinderman with only the 4 tracks listed on their myspace page, and not much more to go on and having spent a number of days searching for more music I did catch a brief glimpse of many of the tracks of the album and if those initial 4 tracks were not striking enough, I found plenty of other surprises and musical moments that have since make this one of my new albums to own.

The first track I heard is also one of my favorites so far. "Get it On" is a fuzz guitar fueled, hypnotic stomp that pulses with Cave's vocals snarling across the top like a man who knows how it is and will not in any way hesitate in telling you. This song just seemed to strike a chord with me I can't explain. It's so visceral, raw, primal and yet cryptic and dark. The lyrics are a standout with lines like: "Then one day he went away, his neighbor claimed he'd shot him, if he hadn't disappeared, the tax man would have got him..." and the call and response "He's/I've got some words of wisdom", they exude both a gritty realism and a dark subtle humor in their word play. "No P**** Blues" also stood out both lyrically and musically. With it's almost spoken word, sexually charged frustration and lines like "...I patted her revolting little Chihuahua..." that have a dark cynical view on some of the more absurd moments of "courtship" and the "battle of the sexes", it definitely has a bit of social comment underlined by that humor again that is only heightened and pushed by the wah pedal guitar explosion that it builds to. "Love Bomb" is the most straight up rock and roll song of the first four I heard, again with great lyrical lines and a feel that is a definite kick in the teeth with screeching guitars, pounding drums and an eschewing feel that pushes and pulls with itself. "Go Tell the Women" compared to the previous three songs is the complete reverse with subtle guitar and a very restrained, dark edged feel that is really unlike anything I've heard before; Dark, and snarling but completely subtle at the same time. It's one of those odd hypnotic songs that is deep, a little frightening and beautiful at the same time.

Those four songs were enough to have me intrigued enough to write about them... so intrigued in fact that I wanted to seek out as much of the album as I could before writing about it, but didn't want to wait till I heard the complete album.

I found a few more tracks but most in rough form so I can't guarantee what the album versions sound like. Still, there were some definite standouts . "Electric Alice" s is one dark psychedelic track with a swaying feel and more cryptic and gritty lyrics. "I Don't Need You to Set Me Free" is a great mid tempo rock song with a great chorus, the perfect mystic flavored feel, while "Honey Bee" is the other real rock song, with its hyper pace and psychedelic breakdown chorus. Also these rough tracks provided some surprising moments, like the hauntingly beautiful "Man on the Moon" and the gritty hypnotic grind of the title track, "Grinderman".

Again, these were early tracks that i got a glimpse of so the album versions may have changed, but I'm definitely looking forward to hearing them. If they sound anything close to these versions they should be great... And when combined with the four tracks I mentioned earlier, should make for one quite exciting, unique and compelling rock and roll album.

Overall, I would definitely say that the Grinderman is not a band for the faint of heart (at least in terms of similar bands), as to many this starkly honest, visceral and dark rock and roll will be too rough to swallow and a few people may even find the dark humor a bit abrasive and perhaps even offensive (if you're really sensitive). I can respect that... to each there own... but it is those same things that I think really make this band amazing. If you're into some of the darker and rougher sides of rock and roll, then this band is definitely a must listen to in my opinion as they're making some of the most compelling, hypnotic rock and roll I've heard in a long time and I can't wait to hear the entire album.

Check out the Grinderman myspace page here: http://www.myspace.com/grinderman

And the Grinderman homepage here: http://www.grinderman.com/

And like I mentioned, if you look long enough you'll find some of the other rough versions of tracks I've mentioned but I'd say just pick up the album if you're interested.

- The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll is a division of Fifth Column Media - www.fifthcolumnmedia.com -