As fun as 2007’s eponymous Grinderman debut was at the time, on reflection it now feels more like a libidinous hirsute recharge for Nick Cave & three of his Bad Seeds, needed to power-up 2008’s swaggering full-blooded Bad Seeds LP Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, rather than a bona fide standalone gem in the increasingly vast Cave catalogue. So when a sequel set appeared on the horizon, with the functional title of Grinderman 2, it was hard not to wonder if this side-project wasn’t an in-joke searching for a second elusive punch-line. With the slightly formulaic unofficial sequel to the first album’s “No Pussy Blues” appearing as the preceding single in the shape of “Heathen Child” (with a cartoonishly offensive video to boot), worst fears seemed confirmed. However, Cave’s LPs should never to be judged by their singles alone (especially in the case of 2003’s execrable Bad Seeds-backed “Rock Of Gibraltar” 45 in 2003). Get past the off-putting pre-album release marketing measures and you’ll find that Grinderman 2 is a creditable sequel to both its near-namesake prequel and perhaps even Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! as well.
Instead of dwelling on the wiry garage-blues that dominated the band’s debut, Grinderman 2 extrapolates on its murkier, lesser-known and more ingenious corners to create a collection that is altogether more muscular and more menacing, losing some of the over-egged self-deprecating machismo in the process.
Despite its daft title, “Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Man” is a ruthlessly effective opening cut, built upon a throbbing undertow Gallon Drunk would kill for, that builds into a sweltering Stooges-meets-Suicide epic. “Worm Tamer” is even better with its squalling wall of voodoo; although it does contain the already over-quoted quip of “Well my baby calls me the Loch Ness Monster/Two great big humps and then I’m gone.” Soon after skipping over the aforementioned “Heathen Child,” the pace turns downwards adroitly for the tropically-layered atmospherics of “When My Baby Comes” and the minimalist spookiness of “What I Know.” The clatteringly turbulent “Evil” brings the volume and speed up again, with the album’s most obvious flashback to The Birthday Party. Proceedings sag somewhat with the lumbering ponderous “Kitchenette” but soon pick up again with the unexpectedly uplifting gospel-tinged “Palaces Of Montezuma,” which would have sounded at home on 2004’s Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus Bad Seeds double-album. The record concludes with the swirling quicksand of “Bellringer Blues” with its massed mangled guitars and group vocal stew, leaving a slightly bludgeoned feeling but also an urge to skip back to the beginning.
As entertaining as it is, there remains a nagging notion that Grinderman 2 is ultimately another water-testing exercise to decide upon which seas Nick Cave will sail the full Bad Seeds line-up when it next reconvenes – now sadly minus Mick Harvey – in the studio. If that is the case though, then he could do a lot worse than to expand on and refine the multiple swamp-rock diversions of Grinderman 2.