When Grinderman released their debut in 2007, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos, and Martyn Casey created a reckless, drunken animal of an alter ego to the Bad Seeds. The album bridged territory mined by everyone from the Stooges to Suicide to Bo Diddley. Again recorded in the company of producer Nick Launay, Grinderman 2 is a more polished and studied affair than its predecessor, but it's a more sonically adventurous, white-hot rock & roll record. The opening, "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man," comes closest to the songs on the previous album, but feels like it comes by way of Patti Smith's "Radio Ethiopia," Howlin' Wolf, and the Scientists. It's pure scummy, sleazy, in-the-red dissonant rock. The swampy, ribald blues of "Kitchenette," features Casey's bass roiling around distorted, Echoplexed electric guitar, electric bouzouki, and jungle-like tom-toms and kick drums. Cave does his best lecher-in-heat blues howl -- if Charles Bukowski had sung the blues, this is what it would have sounded like. "Worm Tamer" is a thundering, interlocked coil of triple-note vamps on electric guitar and violin; there's an organ that sounds like Sun Ra playing in a burlesque theater, and an elastic groove in the rhythm section that threatens to take the entire thing off the rails, but purposely never does. While the controlled feedback suggests the earliest sounds of the Bad Seeds live, the layered harmony vocals and tautly held tension between rhythm and lead instruments -- all on stun -- reveal a disciplined sophistication. The single "Heathen Child," with its darkly comedic lyrics built from the slithering, funky rhythm-section-down mix, is as infectiously hooky as it is blasphemous; Ellis' careening bouzouki here is among the more delightfully threatening rock sounds to emerge from a stringed instrument in ages. Grinderman can do a slow burn as well, evidenced by "When My Baby Comes," as Cave's theatrically bawdy lyrics are delivered over the ensemble's space rock drone. Nothing really prepares the listener for "Bellringer Blues," though. It sounds akin to Loop, Spiritualized, and Ash Ra meeting careening 21st century garage rock, as distortedm backmasked loops of guitar, organ and drums drive spooky chanted vocals thatchurn, rumble and crack in response. With its expansive textural and atmospheric palette, and deliberately studied dynamic bombast, Grinderman 2 still contains an overdose of rock and roll adrenaline and is drenched in comic sleaze, but it also sounds like a new, more experimental direction for the band more than it does a continuation of its predecessor.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek