I am sorry to say that after the last Nick Cave release, I had kind of given up on him. He’d
lost Blixa Bargeld and seemed content just to wrap himself in pretty flowery ballads. Nick
does OK with a pretty ballad now and then, for example “The Ship Song” or “Alice”, but it is a shame when he neglects the rumbling chaotic hellraiser songs that he does so well.
Well, the hellraiser Nick is back and doing fine with “Grinderman” (the name of the band and the album). “Get It On” is great with the stark and mean spoken-word intro “I’ve got to get up to get down and start all over again. go down into the basement and shout/kick those mouse and black rats out”. I’m not sure how he intended this, but to me it’s a metaphor for his renunciation of delicate flowers, linen CD covers, and
return to coarseness. The call-and-response singing “He’s got some words of wisdom/I’ve got some words of wisdom” is a nice revival of the rootsy style heard in
“Kicking Against the Pricks”. There is nothing nice about the harsh guitars grinding guitars like the rumbling of concrete mixers on a construction site.
“No Pussy Blues” is the one we’re all hearing on YouTube, etc. It’s the
video with all those people hugging and kissing and taking off black Victoria’s Secret bras, or maybe they are from Fredrick’s. Nick’s voice rumbles and threatens with half-crazed dark delusions of a chronically frustrated man. “I thought I’d try another tack/I drank a liter of cognac/I threw her down upon her back/but she just laughed and said she didn’t want to”. Nice tension in the guitars which alternate between soft threatening and the sudden explosions.
“Electric Alice” – Man this one is evocative with an undulating beat and keyboards and maracas and a strange whooshing sound. “Electric Alice in the pale moonlight”. It reminds me of standing
under new electric streetlights in the turn of the century watching a desolate prostitute with children at home. She’s been there since the days of gas lamps and now she’s standing under the buzzing electricity, in the rain poetic and sad and negatively charged – “Don’t the moon look big and round”.
“Depth Charge Ethel” sears it’s way to your heart with mean guitars and a relentless chorus. The lyrics “Depth Charge Ethel/Is Something Special” don’t really interest me much so I won’t write much on the song.
“Go Tell the Women” is groovy, deep and cynical “We are magicians/and we are deceiving/we’re free and we’re lost/Go Tell the Women that we’re leaving”. I think it’s about all of the pleasure and feeling that is lost as we abandon our spiritual animal apelike selves in the pursuit of knowledge, technology, art and everything mental. A very wise and true song.
“(I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free” is a slow rocking tune that reminds me of “Exile on Main St” – era Stones, as much of Nick’s work has lately.
“Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)” would never have made sense if I
hadn’t been in love. It could be about wanting to leave humanity and people and earth and bullshit behind make your own non-human world (on Mars). There are some cool buzzing sounds that remind me
of aerosol cans…or bees.
“When My Love Comes Down” is sort of a threatening warning about the impending storm of love and passion which is moving in on a poor pretty thing standing innocently on the corner with skin as white as the fallen snow who will (hopefully) not be rescued by FEMA or any other government agencies.
“Love Bomb” – A classic Nick Cave confessional. Here is Nick the distraught preacher spouting off about his desires and disillusionment. Here Nick lets his voice get really bluesy and damaged-sounding and strong, as only he knows how to work it.
Overall, this album makes up for Nick’s lost reputation. It’s got a great cover with a spotlit monkey holding his crotch and screaming in sexual agony and delight – the performing monkey as the artist giving the people what they want. Monkey gets carnal pleasure and money. Audience gets a cheap thrill. Lucky monkey. Leave it to Nick to prove that monkeys are more highly evolved than the rest of us “artists and mathematicians” who hold “extremely high positions”.