Grinderman throws early Halloween party on sepulchral second album

On Grinderman’s 2007 self-titled debut, Nick Cave teamed with three members of the Bad Seeds, his longtime backing band, and bashed out some of the meanest, rawest, sexiest rock ‘n’ roll he’d made since his days fronting the Birthday Party.

The sound was Gothic garage, and as Cave ramped up his usual silver-tongued vampire-Elvis preacher-man persona, he could barely contain his glee. To paraphrase Social Distortion, Cave just wants to give us the creeps, and while he’s done so in recent years using pianos and strings, there’s no substitute for the skronk and squeal of electric instruments.

True to its title, “Grinderman 2” (Anti-) picks up where its predecessor left off. If Cave tamps down the guitars somewhat, letting bassist Martyn P. Casey and drummer Jim Sclavunos stir the cauldron with their sepulchral death-boogie grooves, he compensates with spirited readings of his horror-show lyrics.

Cave comes out with fangs bared, and on opener “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man,” he plays a blood-sucking lupine outlaw. It’s a thrilling start to the record, a “Werewolves of London”-meets-“Twenty Flight Rock” trash-rock throwdown.

While the Halloween shtick can get old — “Evil,” in which Cave’s sidemen chant the title over and over, borders on self-parody — Grinderman maintains its dark cool for most of these nine tracks.

The key is Cave’s sense of humor. He revels in the ridiculousness of it all, saving his best lyrics not for the bloody bathroom scene of “Heathen Child” or hospital room of “When My Baby Comes,” but rather the ho-hum domestic setting of “Kitchenette,” where he sicks his charms on a bored housewife.

“What’s this husband of yours ever given to you,” he asks, “Oprah on a plasma screen?” Amid songs about monster children and savage attacks, this may be the scariest image of all.

— Text by Kenneth Partridge, photo by Deirdre O’Callaghan

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