Grinderman – S/T

“I got to get back up to get down and start all over again/Head on down to the basement and shout” declares Nick Cave from the dawning seconds of “Get It On”, the omnivorous opener on this self-titled debut outing for his new side project, Grinderman. From this opening couplet, Cave has given an album his clearest ever manifesto commitment; a barely veiled promise to strip himself back to the guttural musical impulses that once propelled the muse of his formative years fronting inspirational swamp-punks The Birthday Party, in the process reconnecting his songs to contorting and vigorous anti-structures. Shrewdly though, Cave hasn’t literally resuscitated the rotten corpse of The Birthday Party, by unpacking the heroin apparatus and dusting down his worn out copy of the Old Testament for overcooked authenticity. Instead, he’s sagely reclaimed The Birthday Party’s sonic idioms from those who’ve pillaged from the group over the last twenty or so years and merged them with the swaggering and savagely humorous edge of his latter day work with The Bad Seeds, creating arguably his most convincing collection of boisterousness and drama since 1994’s Let Love In.

Aided and abetted by Bad Seeds regulars Martyn Casey (bass), Jim Sclavunos (percussion) and Warren Ellis (violin, guitar, ad infinitum), Cave attacks these 11 tracks with renewed gusto – making his recorded debut on guitar to boot. The aforementioned “Get It On” sets the Grinderman stall up vividly, with gnarly six-string fuzz, voodoo percussion and raucous call-and-response vocals from all concerned. The hilariously silly “No Pussy Blues” follows a similar sonic trajectory, encapsulating a darkly mirthful tale of an aging Lothario playing sexually-frustrating games with his younger object of desire; “I sent her every type of flower/I played her guitar by the hour/I patted her revolting little Chihuahua/But still she just didn’t want to.” Proving themselves as no one-trick pony, the ensuing twosome of “Electric Alice” and “Grinderman” find Cave and co. going in for slower, yet somewhat more menacing settings, full of sinister John Cale-styled strings; skeletal guitars and bony percussion. From the tail-end of these murky environs, in swings the terrifically randy “Depth Charge Ethel”; a garage rock rattler that unashamedly recalls The Stooges’ eponymous first LP, albeit with “Sympathy For The Devil”-like vocal coos thrown in for good curve-ball measure.

By the midpoint of “Go Tell The Women”, Cave is found almost crooning his deadpan satire on masculine arrogance and misogyny (“We’ve done our thing/We have evolved/We’re up on our hind legs/The problem solved”) atop a slinky, fractured jazz backdrop. In its wake comes perhaps the record’s only bum move, in the shape of the dragged-out and somewhat bloated blues-rock of “(I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free”. Steering things back on to a healthier course, are the lurching high-octane, organ driven delights of “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)”, sounding like a head-on collision between early Gallon Drunk and Secret Wars-era Oneida. After something so ugly comes an unexpectedly genteel and profound moment with “Man In The Moon” which, although being a tad ill-fitting to the general Grinderman groove, allows the long-player to find some tranquil depth amidst all the lust and bravado. But rather than let the whole affair fade out quietly, the quartet leave the building with the unsettling and brooding “When My Love Comes Down” and the snarling stream-of-consciousness coda of “Love Bomb”, to remind us that older men can still kick shit up with the best of them.

What could have been a middle-age-defying diversion into shambling self-indulgence is happily recognisable as one of Nick Cave’s most memorable, entertaining and virile releases of recent times. Whether this preposterously named band will ever cut a sequel is still unknown, but on this evidence it would certainly be something to anticipate rather than commiserate.