Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Grinderman Brings The Dirty Blues To The Warfield


















“I waaant you,” wails Nick Cave on “Kitchenette” off the latest Grinderman album, 2 (Anti-). Oprah Winfrey burning up the flatscreen, buck-toothed imbeciles are plaguing the vocalist’s existence, and Cave’s howl starts on a high note before teetering over into an even more precariously higher place and then crashing and burning with the undercutting next line. “Yeah, I want you—to be my friend.”

It’s just one of a clutch of tight-rope feats of rock ‘n’ roll derring-do accomplished on the second recording by Cave and longtime Bad Seeds Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn Casey. Grinderman is the Seeds scraped raw—the more ornery, horny, bluesier, seedier side project to the more somber, elegiac and darkly romantic Bad Seeds—and it plays the Warfield Monday, Nov. 29.

This time out, on their first full-length to crack the Top 40 of the Billboard rock album chart, the men of Grinderman go where their muse takes them: Yes, it’s slightly more polished but it’s still a wicked world, populated by twisted True West-esque dark-shadow siblings (“Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man”); scoffing, sacrilegious vixens (“Heathen Child”); and obsessions that turn occult (the Led Zeppelin-like “Evil”).   

Cave, Bad Seeds or even Birthday Party listeners likely haven’t made out many Zep references in the past (that influence explains the album title as well), but even stranger things happen on 2: See “What I Know,” an awkward, sweetly intimate and slightly detuned ballad that appears to share the same DNA with SF proto-punk legend Jonathan Richman, early Bonnie "Prince" Billy/Palace Brothers and their many artfully artless descendants—only with a slightly amplified sense of menace. You wouldn’t want to meet Cave’s ungainly crooner in a dark alley.

“What I Know” sounds like 2’s greatest departure, until the finale, when Grinderman shrouds itself in layers of overdubs and descends into decidedly trippier realms. Last track “Bellringer Blues” comes off like the delirious heart of the disc with its backward-masking-style psychedelic drone, scarifying horror-movie organ and a sinuous, smoky guitar riff that almost gives off the aural version of a contact high. Freed from the binds of the Bad Seeds, the Grinderman crew seems to throw everything but the meth lab into this acid-rock witch’s brew—tambourine, cooing backing vocals, wah-wah (where’s Peter Sellers?)—embodying what Ellis described to The Quietus as “stoner rock meets Sly Stone via Amon Duul.” It's all enough to make you believe that old dogs really can learn new tricks—howling all the way like the euphoric Cave at the very start of 2, right after he declares, “I was Mickey Mouse. He was the big bad wooolf!” Akin to the lupine visitor in the all-white art-filled residence on 2’s cover, these elder punk statesmen are obviously still savages beneath their gentlemanly exteriors.

Grinderman performs Monday, Nov. 29, at the Warfield, 982 Market St., SF. (415) 421-8497, www.goldenvoice.com