Vittorio Carli's review of Grinderman

Grinderman delivered the goods at the Riviera on November 22 with a strong set of aggressive and hard edged blues based rock songs.   Nick Cave was on lead vocals, electric guitar, and organ, Warren Ellis played violin plus acoustic guitar and he contributed vocals. Martyn Casey was on bass plus backup vocals, and Jim Sclavunos played drums.

Grinderman has the same lineup as the post-punk band, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.  The band has a small, cult following in the US, but they are huge in Europe. In the Roskilde Music Festival in Norway, Grinderman recently headlined with Radiohead, Neil Young and Jay-Z.    Roskilde festival

The Grinderman project began when Cave who is best known for his tragic Goth ballads, wrote a series of songs that were more guitar centered and stripped down than his usual fair. He decided to form a new band with the Bad Seed members to call attention to his change in sound and style.

Grinderman resembles the bad seeds because their song ominous lyrics are full of dread, and angst. But Grinderman is more willing to let their exaggerated lyrics slip into camp, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Grinderman concert was comprised solely of songs from the band’s two critically acclaimed CDs, Grinderman (2007) and Grinderman II (2010), which may explain why the band played for less than an hour and a half (They simply didn’t have enough songs.) The show began with a brief melodic intro, and then the band launched into the thunderous chords of “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man.” The maniacal sounding music perfectly meshed with the menacing lyrics which alluded to murder and lycanthropy (the cover of the CD has a wolf image on it.). To top it all off the animalistic Cave howled like a wolf for the first time in the show. The song was played at ear shattering volume, and from the onset the band was as unstoppable and powerful as a runaway rhinoceros


“Get it on” was one of the most irresistibly catchy numbers of the night. Cave could’ve been talking about musically recreating himself in Grinderman when he insistently sang “I had to get up to get down to start all over again.”  The song was flavored by delightfully trashy garage rock-like synthesizer playing and some of the raw backup vocals since the Stooges and New York Dolls.

The primitive instrumentation of the druggy, incantory “Love Bomb” somehow recalled both the sinister sound of the doors, and Norwegian black metal. As I listened to the primitive drumming, and crazed singing, I half expected to see a human sacrifice on stage. The sex obsessed song “Kitchenette” contained one of the lustiest bass lines ever by Martyn Casey. In the song lyrics, the frustrated Cave tried to seduce a married woman, and tears down the spouse by asking, “What’s this husband of yours ever given you except Oprah on a plasma screen?”

Even better was “No Pussy Blues” in which the aging protagonist craves the company of a younger woman but fails to impress her which makes her all the more desirable. The lecherous Cave proclaimed in frustration “I read her Eliot, read her Yeats/I tried my best to stay up late/ I fixed the hinges on her gate/But she still didn’t want to.”  Many critics have seen  the lyrics as a reflection of the aging Nick Cave having a mid life crisis, and the song definitely  seems to his attempt to come  to terms with growing old (In this way it’s like  the punkier equitant to  “The Who’s “The Who by Numbers.”) Appropriately enough the band finished with an explosive rendition of their theme song “Grinderman,” which had all the power of an atom bomb attack. Hearing all the Grinderman songs one after another could be a bit monotonous, but the band made up in raw power what it lacked in versatility.

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