Nick Cave Gets Nasty With Grinderman

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 22, 2010 9:30PM

Grinderman is Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos (photo via Grinderman's myspace)
Whether with The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party or Grinderman, Nick Cave has spent plenty of time meditating on themes of death, sex, darkness and redemption (of the Biblical kind); 2008’s Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! with The Bad Seeds had more of the latter, where Birthday Party (Cave’s early ‘80s band) explored Gothic, murderesque post-punk. Since forming Grinderman in the second half of the decade with several members of his core band, Cave's side project retains the requisite grinding guitars and chunky, stripped-down sound but has yet to approach the level of polish or tightness kicked out by The Bad Seeds. Though what Grinderman lacks in perfect polish, it more than makes up for in daring and brilliant raunchiness.

When the group dropped Grinderman 2 this fall, some of the scattershot nature of the first Grinderman effort was still evident. The song structures are still pretty irregular, but the unevenness on the record is quickly forgotten when the quartet cranks up the fuzz and runs a buzz saw through the music. The result is dirty, grinding and exhilarating despite the near-constant ominous, creeping feel. There's a sense of doom and dream to Grinderman's songs--no matter how comically lecherous they are in content. Added to the scuzziness of the music that draws equally from noodlely psychedelia, '60s garage rock and post-punk is Cave's sexually-charged howling and moaning that's almost blues-y in its conviction. Cave is well past 50, but boy does he sound horny. Grinderman rocks out warped versions of mid-life frustrations with no apology, like a fantasy group of past-their-prime dads who have formed a garage band, singing and playing however the hell they want to.

Of course, all jokes aside, Grinderman's individual members are well-versed and outright solid musicians. It's exactly why seeing the old hands find their way as a new act--the way countless new, young bands do all the time--is so brilliant. Even though everyone in Grinderman knows what and how to play for the best result, they dodge the obvious choices, making even their missteps all the more interesting. Dark and dirty has always been Cave's go-to, and with Grinderman, he proves that he can be versatile and risky even with the same tools he always uses.

Grinderman plays tonight at The Riviera, 4746 N Racine, 8 p.m., $28, 18+