06 April 2011

2010: Grinderman, Harlan T. Bobo

Grinderman [2]

Released September 14, 2010 (Anti)

Short Notes: Nick Cave is gross. And we like it.

Grinderman 'Heathen Child' from Trim Editing on Vimeo.

Lin: A
I love Nick Cave, having nearly everything he's put out -- from the Bad Seeds, from Grinderman, from The Birthday Party and the Boys Next Door. So this is probably worth taking with a grain of salt. I was never able to get into the first Grinderman album, finding the album unfocused (symptomatic of much of Cave's recent work, sadly) and at times uninteresting. But I loved the idea. Whatever the original Grinderman promised is fulfilled by Grinderman 2 -- the dirty, sweaty, blasphemous, creepy, ugly, leering promises. Your enjoyment of this album will depend on how close those adjectives are to "AWESOME!" for you.

It still has some of the flaws of Grinderman's first, but they're thankfully minimized temporally and sonically. Unbelievably, there are three tracks here that top "No Pussy Blues," the best of Grinderman 1. "Evil" and "Kitchenette" could have been written by Howlin' Wolf. "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man" and "Worm Tamer" sound closest to the stuff on Grinderman 1, but do it better.

"Heathen Child" is one of Nick Cave's best songs.

The real surprise, though, is "Palaces of Montezuma." At first it sounds out of place, thematically and musically: a fairly straight-forward love song? No squealing guitars? Backing humming vocals? It fits though, both alongside Cave's more tender moments with The Bad Seeds, and as a respite from all the weirdness going on in this album. It still has some of the weirdness:

"The custard colored superdream of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen...
I give to you
the spinal cord of JFK wrapped in Marilyn Monroe's negligee...
I give to you"
Damn, though, if that ain't romantic.

Brandon: A-

Most of the reviews I’ve read of this record make a point of explicitly comparing this record with Nick Cave’s other work--with his Bad Seeds records, or with his more manic, punk influenced music with The Birthday Party (records that came out around the time I was born). Because I’m only a casual Nick Cave fan, I’m trying to approach this with as little prejudice or expectation as possible. And what I get from Grinderman 2 is plenty of sleazy, sexualized posturing wrapped in fuzzy punk and copping lots of old blues moves--sort of like a middle-aged version of Iggy Pop who never met Bowie and stayed in Detroit, getting weird. At first listen, Cave sounds sinister and threatening, but as I’ve hung around, what I hear is actually a lot more playful, especially in the songs overtly about Cave’s hypersexual dirty old man persona. “Worm Tamer,” which is about exactly what you’d figure, isn’t really dark or violent, but rather as much about Cave’s appreciation of his girl’s prowess (and his own uncertainty about his ability to keep her) as it is about any kind of objectification.

The standout here, though, is the song that’s most different from the rest of the album, “Palaces of Montezuma.” Sort of like “It’s the End of the World And We Know It” as remade by the kind of guy who’d call his lover a “worm tamer,” it’s got what a lot of the sleazy bluesy numbers here don’t have--a hook. Sure, it’s more straightforward, but as far as repetitive pop culture-referencing songs go, it’s pretty great.

Harlan T. Bobo

Released April 13, 2010 (Goner)

Short Notes: Quirky singer-songwriter record from sometimes Cat Power collaborator.

Lin: B+
This is a pleasant surprise, and makes me sad that I'm only just now hearing about the epically-named Harlan T. Bobo. The "thing" -- whatever it is -- that was missing from other country/roots albums we've reviewed (I'm thinking of, namely, the Charlie Parr and Doug Paisley albums) is found here. Sucker is very short, clocking in right around half an hour, and while it leaves me wanting just a bit more, it's varied enough that it still feels like it's covered enough ground to be satisfying. I mean, we have the rockabilly here (Energy, Bad Boyfriends), the content porch-sitting songs (Sweet Life), and even a track that would sound awesome arranged for ukulele (Drank). This is a fairly happy sounding album, one of the rare few that are still good. Worth checking out.

Brandon: B

This sounds a lot like a Lou Reed solo record from the 1990s, in a good way. Filled with straightforward but quirky arrangements with dense, conversational lyrics, this is as entertaining a short 30 minute record as I’ve heard this year. Bobo’s sound owes something to the quirkier end of what I think of as alt.country, but there’s a lot of variation here, from the Leon Redbone swing of “Perfect Day” to the almost-surf of “Energy” and the French sing-a-long of “Mlle Chatte” (who likes butter, apparently). This isn’t a “big” record, but it’s clever, lyrical, and fairly rewarding. Recommended.

No comments: