In recent years, Nick Cave has made an about-face that's the musical equivalent of trading the family sedan for a convertible.
In 2007, a skeezy-looking Cave, wearing a mustache, slicked-back hair and a barely buttoned shirt, ranted and raved about suffering from "the no pussy blues." And that was the world's introduction to his new band, Grinderman.
Composed of Cave and three other members of his other band, the Bad Seeds, Grinderman debuted with the aforementioned single, a song about having the blues on account of not getting any pussy. After decades as the Serious Artist — writing songs with intricate narratives, penning two novels and the screenplay to The Proposition, and dedicating half of a double album to retelling the Greek myth of Orpheus — Cave, it seems, decided to get a little cheeky. The wacked-out video for the band's latest single, "Heathen Child," even depicts our high-brow hero dressed as an ancient Greek warrior farting mushroom clouds. This piano man has become the dirty old man. Metaphorically, of course — well, maybe.
Raunchy as it is, the Grinderman material isn't just prurient. "No Pussy Blues" may very well be the funniest thing Cave has ever written. Each line is another failed attempt at seducing a woman, be it sucking in his gut or "petting her revolting little Chihuahua." Sonically, though, it's an atom bomb — the choruses burst with guitar shards that fly forth with the sort of violence that only sexual frustration can provide. The reckless abandon takes a cue from the cacophony of No Wave — drummer Jim Sclavunos helped kick start the New York No Wave scene in the late '70s as a member of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks — while the groove gives a garage-rock head fake. Threatening to suffocate it all are psychedelic treatments courtesy of former Dirty Three multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis, whose electrified and contorted bouzouki (a Greek stringed instrument that's sort of a cross between a mandolin and a lute) is maybe the greatest-sounding thing in rock 'n' roll right now.
Though the Bad Seeds enjoyed a fair amount of stateside commercial success in the '90s, Cave has remained largely an underground rock icon in the U.S. He howled and hollered in the volatile post-punk band The Birthday Party — by far the most recognizable group to spring out of what came to be known as the Little Band scene in late-'70s Melbourne, Australia. After that band broke up, Cave formed the Bad Seeds. The dark lyrical imagery and persona that infused the band's early years made Cave a poster child for the burgeoning goth subculture, while the band's later years saw him transform into a debonair piano man. Internationally, Cave is huge. The last Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album, Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!, peaked at No. 4 in the U.K. charts. It hit No. 2 in Australia and Norway, and No. 3 in Sweden. The British magazine Mojo declared it the best album of 2008. In the U.S., it sneaked onto the chart at a modest No. 64.
Still, not many rock 'n' roll careers cross the two-decade mark, and the few singers who do cross that plane usually do so having mellowed considerably. By the time Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released the set of confessional ballads that make up The Boatman's Call in 1997, and the lush and pristine No More Shall We Part in 2001, that seemed to be the likely trajectory for Cave, who was then newly sober.
Then came Grinderman. And Cave's recent return to brash and aggressive music hasn't been an isolated incident: Cave & Co. followed up the Grinderman debut with the Bad Seeds' Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!. On that album, the sonic template established on Grinderman more or less stayed in place, if not the horni-ness. Aside from just counting the number of musicians involved, all this probably makes the distinction between Grinderman and the Bad Seeds either academic or moot.
But whatever a Grinderman is, rest assured he's one lecherous dude.
The band released Grinderman 2 in September, and it ups the ante set down by its predecessor in just about every department. Musically, it's sharper without sacrificing any of the band's grit or calculated sloppiness. Lyrically, it's brimming with double entendres that really aren't much more than regular entendres. On songs like "When My Baby Comes" — for instance — Cave explores notions of desire and lust with the same vigor he used to study hyper-violent villains, which is to say he's fairly thorough. But come to think of it, a lot of those college credits probably carry over.
Even when the songs are sweet and loving, you have to question their motives. When Cave sings, "Who needs the stars? You are my star / Who needs the Moon? You are my moon," the rest of the band chants, "Evil rising." Other times, he just sounds silly, like when he's singing about sticking his fingers "in your biscuit jar."
In interviews over the course of the past decade, Cave has talked at length about his regimented and disciplined work ethic. He goes through stretches of six-day work weeks, showing up at his office at 7:30 in the morning and working 10 or 11 hours a day. He's long been a man who plans ahead.
But at the age of 52, he's letting what he calls his "lower self" do some of the talking. "You can't write that stuff down on a piece of paper," he recently told The Guardian, referring to the Grinderman lyrics. "I can't sit in my office and write it down, because when you're writing, you're working from the mind, and your mind is telling you: 'Don't write that down, don't go there, it's not a good idea, it's not worth the grief.' "
Maybe the men in Grinderman aren't necessarily trying to rechannel their raucous youth, but they've obviously felt a need to shake things up. As midlife crises go, this one's pretty badass.
The second woe is past; and behold, the third woe cometh quickly
Ok, Daddy, if I promise to go on the potty; can I have my gun…
8-8:15 third kind
8:30-8:45 the shapschenk restagtion
9-9:15 lazer slut
9:15-9:30 tim carey
This here's mah boy Charlie
While combing through old photos, Billy's court-ordered therapist finally discovered why it all went wrong.