‘I woke up this morning and I thought: What am I doing here?’ So wonders Nick Cave at the start of Grinderman’s second album. We have no reason to doubt the man’s sincerity – after all, such existential crises have long driven his muse and been a wellspring for his mordant humour – but listening to the forcefully physical and insistent bill of outrageously good health that follows, it’s hard to believe.
Cave, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn Casey sound like they were born to make this music, which is suggestive of a less well-behaved, more corruptible and unkempt younger sibling of The Bad Seeds.
As Grinderman, the four leave their epic and considered, classically constructed, narrative-driven homeland to explore a more scabrous and eruptive place. Punching the air and yelling, ‘f***, yeah!’ as they go.
The kink in album two’s tail is in its extended length and the whacked-out, raga-like nature of many of its songs. That said, ‘Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man’ and ‘Worm Tamer’ are delightfully rough, and ‘Kitchenette’ offers shrieking keys, thickly distorted guitar and flashes of wickedly dark, on-the-hoof humour. The haunting ‘When My Baby Comes’ underscores G-man’s admiration of Alice Coltrane, grafting on to her cosmic jazz the kind of atmospheric strings Cave and Ellis favoured for their recent soundtrack work, then adding a heads-down, violin wig-out that Jason Pierce would surely applaud.
The crackly, Sparklehorse-like ambience of ‘What I Know’ settles the mood, but the band’s apocalyptic horse is off at a gallop with the deranged and filthily squalling ‘Evil’. Long may these four grind on.