After the epic proportions of Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus double-disc in which Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds laid out two sides of the songwriter's melodic and ambitious look at both rock & roll and balladry, Grinderman sounds like a wild, nasty, wooly rock & roll monolith who simply need to let it rip and then see what happens. Along with Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos (right, 3/7 of the Bad Seeds), Cave and company turn in a squalling, raucous, twist-and-turn garage band set that takes on all comers. Check out the opening line of the single "No Pussy Blues" for clues as to why the songwriting screenwriter (and seriously B-grade actor) may be doing this -- the sounds of a typewriter plunking only to be joined by a Sclavunos' hi hat before Cave prattles in spoken word with real menace: "My face is finished, my body's gone, and I can't help thinking but think standing up here with all this applause and gazing down at all the young and beautiful with looking up with their questioning eyes/That I must above all things love myself..." Joined by a snarling bass, he goes on to try to woo some young woman in the crowd with all his tricks, from sucking in his gut and getting all togged up to quoting her Yeats to doing her dishes and sending her doves, but he is rejected. The wail of age is fraught with both danger and delight as he continues his desperate and unsuccessful attempt at seduction, but all he ends up with is the "no pussy blues." It adds up to two things: black humor and a love for the kind of rock & roll younger musicians have to plot, plan, pose and dig deep into their record collections to try and emulate. When the band jumps in with all the racket unleashed, the track is as tragically funny as it is unhinged. The singer's frustration is understood and empathized with to the point of sheer vitriol. And it's a careening jolt of rock & roll that would send his listeners to the volume control for more. The opening track "Get It On" is similar but even wilder: it comes bursting out of the box like a rabid wolf. Even on the slower tunes such as "Electric Alice," a story-song, the grimy organ sounds and Ellis' distorted bouzouki and violin meet the slippery mud shuffle of Sclavunos' drums and Casey's plodding, droning bassline. All of this said, there are moments here, such as on "Depth Charge Ethel" and "Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars") where Grinderman are so freaking awesome they transcend the garage band thing altogether and sound like some flipped-out cross between Suicide, the Stooges, Bo Diddley and the Scientists. The songs come through and stand on their own amid the noise, so don't be surprised if some of these evil little nuggets get new treatments when the Bad Seeds reconvene. While the sound of pure snarl and glee is what melts the speaker cabinets the most, the overdriven menace of most these songs doesn't undermine their worth as songs. Cave is far too gifted for that and his bandmates are too empathetic to let him veer too far off course. The album closes with "Love Bomb," with Cave railing on electric guitar. It's a pumping anthem of pure male libidinal dis-ease that takes the sentiments of "No Pussy Blues" to the extreme, though Bob Dylan could have written the words. It's an anthem of male malaise, dysfunction, the rage at emasculation and desire. In fact, the protagonist in most of these songs is literally sick with it, and so is almost all of the music itself here. Grinderman, not the Bad Seeds, are the most logical -- though not necessarily similar-sounding or serious -- extension of the Birthday Party legacy Cave left behind 25 years ago. These are songs to chew on, get knocked down by, guffaw at, and take deep inside your own shadow side to celebrate. Grinderman is the impure rock & roll album to beat in 2007.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek