By Patrick Foster
Nick Cave is one of the few recording artists truly qualified to title a song "Evil." For more than three decades, the Australian renaissance man has spelunked into the darkest reaches of the human soul, and he's still at it with Grinderman, whose second album growls, moans and enchants with typical Cave aplomb.
Review copies of the record come with PR trumpeting sonic adventurousness, groundbreaking achievements, etc., but there is little among the nine tracks that Cave wasn't doing on 1986's landmark "Your Funeral, My Trial." In fact, by the end of "Grinderman 2," things are sounding positively Dylanesque: Both the lilting "Palaces of Montezuma" and "Bellringer Blues" evoke Bob's "Blood on the Tracks"/"Desire" second-coming.
Cave dominates Grinderman, of course, but there is sense of cohesion among the quartet - the brilliant multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis, bassist Martyn Casey and drummer Jim Sclavunos - not evident on their 2007 debut.
From the opening "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man," with its ominous bass line and assembly-plant guitar, the musicians aren't so much supporting Cave as they are embedded within him. This frees Saint Nick to be his sly, scary, scintillating self, dabbling in psychological terror, lost-love lament and backwoods dementia. Particularly striking are the skin-peeling "When My Baby Comes" and spectral "What I Know," which hover like a shadow on a cloudy day. Though Cave gets in a few good jokes on "Worm Tamer" and "Kitchenette," the core of "Grinderman 2" is gnarled and disturbed. Which makes for an awfully fun listen.
Recommended tracks: "Palaces of Montezuma," "Worm Tamer," "When My Baby Comes"