Review Summary: Grinderman take themselves seriously and make a far more sophisticated record than their debut.
When I saw Grinderman
on their first Australian tour in 2007, the first thing I saw upon entering the venue was a large plastic horse (the extravagantly colourful kind you'd see on a merry-go-round) resting in the centre of the stage. Along with everyone else, I wondered why it was there and being familiar with the band's self-titled album, I assumed it was some kind of bizarre stage prop destined for destruction at the beginning of the show, in keeping with Cave's reputation for chaotic live shows during his time in The Birthday Party
. With this hype in my mind, I was a bit disappointed to realise it was actually the prop for the opening act: a solo burlesque dancer. As appropriate a burlesque dancer with a plastic horse may have been for the opening of a Grinderman show, it was certainly nowhere near as fun as the scene of a 50-year-old moustached man with a Stratocaster roundhouse kicking said horse into the front row of the crowd I was eagerly imagining.
The point, of course, is that Grinderman's self-titled album was a gleefully crude, immature, and crass record by a group of scraggly-haired men who should have, and in fact did, know better. The greatest strength of the record, evidenced in the stupidly simple noise riffs of songs like "Get It On" and "No Pussy Blues", was that it sounded like the band simply didn't care what they were playing. Grinderman 2
feels like the necessary next step for the band: namely a record that sounds more sophisticated than noisy garage jams. Which is not to say that the record doesn't retain much of the same energy that permeated the group's debut, just that it's been fashioned into something more sophisticated.
Opener "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man", for example, reintroduces the nasty fuzzy, blues-noise riffs of the group's debut with brutal quiet-loud dynamics and shrieking wah pedal abuse. "I woke up this morning/Thought what am I doing here?" Cave whispers before belting out the almost nonsensical chorus. The song ideas, however, are not the same as those contained on the group's debut: there's a far greater sense of climax when the heavy choruses hit, not to mentioned more complex riffing. "When My Baby Comes" is perhaps the record's most sophisticated cut, complete with Tom Waits styled percussion, a chorus of falsetto backing vocals, and supremely heavy stoner-rock dynamics, while "What I Know" is the tasteful Grinderman version of an acoustic ballad and "Kitchenette" is perhaps the first genuinely sexy song of the group's catalogue.
, undoubtedly, is a better record than its predecessor, but while it's more diverse, fun, and engaging than Grinderman
, I can't help but miss the crudeness of that album. While "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man", "Heathen Child" and "Evil" certainly try, nothing here stomps quite as hard as "No Pussy Blues" or "Get It On". My complaint, however, is a small one, and there is no doubt in my mind that I'd be disappointed if the group stuck to same formula they employed on their debut. Indeed, Grinderman 2
is actually a far more listen-able record, with far more replay value, and this is what I'll remember when I find myself nostalgic for the dumb simplicity of the first album. Even if it is a marginally less appropriate soundtrack to imagine a 53 year old man kicking a plastic horse to.