Vulture Hound Music is looking back at 10 albums which turn 10 years old in 2017. This week Michael Dickinson looks back at Nick Cave’s Grinderman, and their 2007 self-titled debut album.

Like any law abiding University student I spent a lot of three years drinking too much and listening to 70s rock. During that time I delved heavily into the magnificent world of Johnny Cash. He became the gateway drug for what remains an enduring love and fascination with Nick Cave (it was Cash’s cover of Mercy Seat if you were wondering).

Released (Christ!!!) ten years ago Grinderman was the first new Nick Cave release I heard in my early days of fanboy-dum. Having spent over twenty years releasing music as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Cave decided that it was time to have a brazen mid-life crisis set to music. He picked up a guitar for the first time and along with Bad Seed cohorts Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn Casey decided to bash out some unabashedly trashy rock numbers. Taking their outfit name from a Memphis Slim song, ‘Grinderman’ released their self titled album to much intrigue from the media. Was Cave writing songs about his own struggles with middle age? Was it a concept album? Does he really suffer from erectile dysfunction and listen to Woman’s Hour? These questions and more were entirely dismissed by him in interview, it’s worth seeking out Zane Lowe’s interview from around this time.

The music is fast and loose at times, Cave’s amateurish guitar lends the sound a ramshackle feel. In fact it was endearing to see him perform live round the time and see Cave stood with hands behind his back as Warren tuned his guitar for him. His vocal range flitters between slam poetry on ‘No Pussy Blues’ and ‘Go Tell the Women’ to delusional rant on ‘Depth Charge Ethel’.

Perhaps not being as highly regarded as some of Cave’s other works simply because it doesn’t bare the name ‘Bad Seeds’ the album holds some of the most complex music in his wide catalogue. ‘When My Love Comes Down’ is a cacophony of riffs, organs and loops. ‘Man in the Moon’ is one of the most haunting slow songs he’s ever written and ‘Electric Alice’, well it’s quite simply one of the finest songs ever created. With a marching band-like drum pattern, throbbing bass and Warren treated riffs and looping it’s a hypnotic glare of a song that completely holds sway over you for it’s runtime. Of it the music Cave himself said he could listen to it forever and he’s not wrong. Ten years later and it’s still my ringtone. And no I haven’t gotten sick of it yet.

‘Honey Bee (Let’ Fly to Mars)’ is lunacy of the most wonderful degree. Lyrics describing guys out on the lawn passed out seemingly mean very little. Other than the bold music on display it’s Cave’s ever present macabre humour mixed with insightful lyrics. Sometimes these come across as simply bold statements ‘Go Tell the Women’ could be accused by some as a lazy song, built around a basic guitar whilst he lists off a bunch of phrases without anything in the way of vocal delivery. But something he, Grinderman and The Bad Seeds never get enough credit for is being masters of atmosphere and the almighty vibe. They know how to structure songs into mood pieces, mini-films that have moments of fear, tenderness, violence and laughter. Grinderman may be the most crystallised realisation of Cave and Co’s work.

It’s experimental within his body of work, it’s messy, it’s profound, it’s danceable, it’s fuckable, there’s some songs that don’t quite work and some songs that are stone cold classics. Grinderman is a confounding album and I will never grow tired of it.

By Michael Dickinson

Michael is the VultureHound Film Editor.

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