Writing about Record Store Day last week, and in particular my quest to find the Grinderman track with National vocals, made me think that perhaps now is a good time to talk about Grinderman. I mean, why not? You already know something of what I feel for The National. It makes sense to me, then, to fill you in on just why it was so important for me to grab a hold of that magnificently coloured piece of vinyl last Saturday.
The answer lies within an episode of Later… With Jools Holland from 2007. In case any of you reading this, and I have to assume someone is otherwise there’s no point, are unaware, Jools Holland has a tv show that has been running, for some years now, which showcases the music of today, wherever it has originated from. At one point, for me, it was absolutely essential viewing every Friday night. It is now on BBC2 Tuesdays and Fridays (the Tuesday show being a live taster for what is to come on Friday) and is no longer quite so essential. That being said, PJ Harvey will be on the show on Friday, so make sure you tune in for that.
Anyway, on this particular Friday night, Jo and I had tuned in to watch… well, actually I don’t know who, but looking at the cast list, it could only have been the Bow MC Dizzee Rascal, who would have been performing tracks from his ultimately underwhelming album Maths and English. I’ve learnt to treat Dizzee and his music with a bit of caution since his stunning debut album because, for me, the output doesn’t merit the praise he has had- a few outstanding singles aside. It puzzles me how Dizzee is so feted and someone like Tricky is…. well, I guess you’d say forgotten.
That’s by the by though. I can’t tell you what Dizzee played because I don’t remember, I probably don’t remember because a tall Australian dude with a handlebar moustache ended up making quite an impression on me. Now, I’m not going to say that I was unaware of Nick Cave prior to his Grinderman side project appearing on Later. I knew stuff like “Where The Wild Roses Grow” and, in particular, “Do You Love Me?” from 1994’s album Let Love In, but I had dismissed him as some drug addled goth weirdo. That is to say I was unaware, completely ignorant, as to just how brilliant and funny Mr Cave is. My mistake.
Four minutes and thirty seconds after he and his band, comprising Martyn P. Casey, Warren Ellis and Jim Sclavunos (in other words three of his Bad Seeds) had launched into “No Pussy Blues”, I was no longer ignorant. I was completely sold, in fact, by the time that Nick had reached the line “I must above all things love myself” as he begins to string his tale of an ageing rock star and his pursuit of a girl “who just never wants to”. By the time the song finished, I had a grin on my face a mile wide and resolved to find out a little bit more about this Grinderman band. And so I bought myself the album. this album:
What the monkey is actually doing on the cover was the cause of some recent debate between a journalist and Nick, but I suppose that’s irrelevant when put next to what actually lies within the covers of the album. And what lies within is some serious rocking. The opening track, titled “Get It On” begins with the words “I’ve gotta get up to get down and start all over again” before kicking into something that has always sounded to me a bit like the Mission: Impossible theme, but distorted some. Listening back to this track, knowing now what has gone before with the Bad Seeds, those opening words sound even more like a mission statement than they did back then- the mission being, obviously, to rock and rock hard.
On the theme of 60’s tv show tunes, but not as we know them, I have also always thought that Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars) owed something to the Adam West starred Batman series, but I’m prepared to admit that could just be me reaching a bit. Love Bomb continues the freewheeling rocking, but there are quieter moments on this album too. Beautifully rendered quieter moments at that; there is Man In The Moon and the hypnotic title track which would pave the way for Night of the Lotus Eaters on the next Bad Seeds album. But we’re not talking about them- yet.
One of the highlights on the album, with a lovely Martyn Casey bassline, is (I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free. I love the lyrics, I love the way it’s performed and I was really looking forward to hearing it performed when we took Jo’s dad to go and see them when they toured the second album last October and guess what? They didn’t play it! I think it was about the only Grinderman song that didn’t get aired, which confused me somewhat. Not that it spoiled my enjoyment of what was an absolutely fantastic show, closed by that wonderful title track.
If Grinderman was indeed the sound of Nick Cave getting up to get down and starting all over again, then- for me- it was a very good thing indeed. It led me to purchase the next Bad Seeds LP, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, get tickets to see the Bad Seeds live and then purchase most of the Bad Seeds excellent back catalogue. What is the point of this 1000 words, then? Well, only to tell you a story about how a story about the failure of an old “rock n roller” to get laid put a grin on my face and led me to fall in love with one of the greatest bands of our time. And what could be simpler?
(I Dont Need You To) Set Me Free
No Pussy Blues