Although the re-explosion of vinyl as an art form and audiophile medium has performed a positive role in both reconnecting with and rewarding physical music buyers, the spectre of exploiting rekindled faith has been a little too tempting for the record industry to resist. Hence, amongst other recurring vinyl trends has been the revival of the remix 12”. Once a sometimes dubious ‘80s/’90s phenomenon for securing extra needle and sales time for more pop and dance orientated artists, remix 12 inchers have now opened their grooves to less obviously susceptible artists. Thus, latterly, the non-club-filling likes of Radiohead, Wooden Shjips, Vetiver and even Belle & Sebastian have found themselves with vinyl-centric remix releases in their catalogues. The thought that Nick Cave (working under his Grinderman side-project guise) would find himself affiliated to such endeavours may also have come as a surprise to those whom have followed him since way back when.
However, if Cave is to let others reshape his recordings it might as well be with the Grinderman repertoire; given the lower-risk in tarnishing the main body of his work with The Bad Seeds and the fact that the recently terminated outfit’s loose guttural swamp-rock is certainly malleable enough for some studio re-stretching. This new compilation captures the bulk of recent Grinderman remix treatments previously spread across no less than five elaborately-packaged slabs of vinyl, used to promote 2010’s fun, if somewhat frivolous, Grinderman 2 album.
The results are predictably mixed (no pun intended) but certainly worthy of investigation by faithful Cave fans, at the very least. On the plus side for starters, an alternate version of “Heathen Child” (rechristened as “Super Heathen Child”), with additional squalling fretwork from guitar legend Robert Fripp is arguably better than the original take. Elsewhere, the throbbing revamp of “Worm Tamer” (as “Hyper Worm Tamer”) by U.N.K.L.E. is blessed with some extra tribalistic voodoo, and Barry Adamson’s rewiring of “Palaces Of Montezuma” is soaring and spacious. Josh Homme’s stripped-down and rebuilt makeover of “Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Man” (renamed as “Mickey Bloody Mouse”) connects Grinderman even more palpably with Cave’s roots in The Birthday Party. Perhaps most likeable of all, is the otherwise unreleased SixToes remoulding of “When My Baby Comes,” which peels things back to then add on a pastoral chamber music arrangement that acts as a welcome breather from the thicker sonic stewing across the rest of the collection.
On the less successful side, there are some disappointments and inevitable filler-pieces. Whilst Andrew Weatherall has a strong pedigree for reupholstering indier-than-thou material into electro odysseys, his dalliance with “Heathen Child” just sounds dated and complacent here. Whilst fans of The National will want to hear the Silver Alert slow-mo rephrasing of “Evil” with Matt Berninger’s guest vocals, the overall refashioning is somewhat unsatisfyingly dressed in drab trip-hop patterned attire. Michael Cliffe’s ‘house’ remix of “Evil” is even less engaging, though the inclusion of the band’s own visceral and dank “First Evil” demo acts as some positive compensation, even if the Grinderman 2 LP version still trumps them all. Nick Zinner’s shimmering percussive re-birthing of “Bellringer Blues” starts well, but meanders to an over-long conclusion and Cat’s Eyes adaptation of “When My Baby Comes,” which veers from ambient minimalism to sludgy psychedelia, is painfully ponderous.
Ultimately, the peaks and troughs of Grinderman 2 RMX come from magnifying both the good and the so-so qualities of the original source material and from finding the most imaginative or laziest ways to refashion them. Its highpoints celebrate Grinderman’s amorphous aggressive adventurism whilst its lows suggest that the band has probably been a detour that Nick Cave and three of his Bad Seeds might eventually refer to as an entertaining ‘career break’ rather than a proper meaningful CV entry. Overall though, this will still keep Nick Cave obsessives occupied enough until the next full Bad Seeds-backed album emerges.