Most of the indie rock I've heard this year (well over 200 records and counting, with 11 weeks to go in this series) is really pretty toothless. Even the harder-rocking stuff, with its big drums or wall-of-sound guitars or garage-rock aesthetic, seems relatively tame to me. Makes me wonder what the new breed is so afraid of. Where's the attitude? Where's the swagger? Is that stuff passé but I didn't get the memo?
So, it's good to hear that Nick Cave is flirting with danger at his advanced age of 53. Where formerly dangerous guys like Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger have been cartoon characters for the better part of two decades, Cave seems like one of the last true big bad wolves out there. Cave has seemingly turned his back (for now, perhaps) on the more high-brow and literate art rock he's been making with the Bad Seeds for a nastier and more gut-punching primal sort of sex-charged and bluesy art rock.
This year, only The Dead Weather are doing this sort of demon-child blues-rock thing better than Grinderman. I'd be willing to bet that Cave and his mates (Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos, and Martyn Casey) were inspired by Jack White's side project to get back to their rock 'n' roll roots in making this record, which is not quite as punk as the first self-titled Grinderman record but is no less raw.
To me, Nick Cave has always been hit-and-miss. Both the Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds have moments that I truly love, but just as many moments that leave me cold. Grinderman is the first Cave project whose total output hasn't disappointed me in the least. And I think that has the most to do with the band itself, because Nick Cave sounds like Nick Cave in Grinderman, just as he does in the Bad Seeds. The band, though (including Cave on guitar, instead of keys), is a potent outfit that makes me think this is the kind of music that the original Stooges lineup (Ron Asheton on guitar, Dave Alexander on bass, Scott Asheton on drums) would have eventually made had they stuck together beyond their two classic albums.
Grinderman 2 is inspiring stuff from a bunch of old guys. Now I'd like to see some 20-somethings figure out a way to cut to the core like Nick Cave and Grinderman are doing well into middle age.
Best song: Lead track "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man" sets the tone, but there's not a bad song on this record. Rotation: Heavy Deja Vu: Sam the Sham's "Little Red Riding Hood" I'd rather listen to: The best 1-2-3 punch in all rock 'n' roll: "Down on the Street," "Loose," and "TV Eye." Grade: A
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.