Grinderman

I own anything Nick Cave recorded. From Birthday Party to Grinderman, including the Bad Seeds discography complete with the B-Sides.
I recently bought several versions of the remastered deluxe editions (very badly recorded on CD originally) and I also have a couple of (forgettable) soundtracks.
I started both Nick Cave novels, don’t think I ended either of them, though.

I saw Nick Cave live seven times no one else more then him. Three with the Bad Seeds, three with Grinderman, one in that proto-Grinderman tour called Nick Cave solo. Basically it was Grinderman still playing Bad Seeds songs and Nick Cave testing his rusty guitar skills after many years far from the six strings.

I also regret missing a free Bad Seeds gig back in the nineties because of the simultaneous wedding of the brother of my ex happening the other side of Italy. I will never forgive them getting married the day I had a chance to see the Bad Seeds with Blixa Bargeld and without Warren Ellis.

This intro is needed to say that if Pink Floyd were my teenager fixation, Nick Cave surely is the artist I have admired most since I turned twenty, about… erm… twenty years ago. I am not a fan(atic) person I betray easily my favourite bands when they delude me, Nick Cave never did.

I backed Nick Cave when he was singing about his addiction problems, his emotional breakdowns and his new unearthed happiness.
I saw him in the gloom and coming back to form, till he got the deserved commercial success and survived it.

Nick Cave, turned fifty a couple of years ago, and has never been in such a good shape. Full of energy, ideas, songs.

I saw one of the first shows for Grinderman, back at the Forum in London in 2007. Seasick Steve and Suicide opened for them. Suicide also joined them for the encore.
They still sounded rough, unfinished. It was shocking to see Nick Cave leaving his reassuring gothic ballads to go back to his angry, guitar, punk-ish, noisy, bluesy roots. I enjoyed that gig, but it wasn’t as good as a Bad Seeds concert.

Grinderman are the right place where the Cave/Ellis pair feel free to put their musical intimacy.
With Jim Sclavunos and Martyn P Casey offering an unmatched rhythm session, that has been playing with Cave for years in the Bad Seeds, there is no risk of failure and it felt plenty of space for improvement.

Four years on, Grinderman are back with a second tighter album, unoriginally titled Grinderman 2, and a much bigger worldwide tour that I caught twice.
The first time for their headlining set at Primavera Sound in Barcelona in May.
A fantastic show. A band having fun playing together. A band in full control, without the hesitation of that first time. Nick Cave in amazing shape, narcissistically enjoying the tens of thousands fans in front of him. Ellis wildly abusing his instruments.

Grinderman shows always made me think that albums are recorded as sketches to be developed on stage. A way to keep an idea, an idea that is to be expanded.
If music industry didn’t have its silly rules, Grinderman should tour an entire year before putting the new material on record, it would sound much better. Instead Grinderman 2 was recorded a whole year before it was released and had to wait for the end of Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! tour.

Nick Cave is a unique frontman, no question about that. He is an impressive singer and an amazing songwriter. He also plays guitar and mistreat keyboards. Warren Ellis fill any gap, he leaves his violin aside most of the time to get his mini and standard size collection of Fender guitars on fire.

When Warren Ellis started collaborating with the Bad Seeds he was the man that saved the band and Nick Cave from his derive into gloomy gothic ballads.
Cave with Ellis finds inspiration, optimism and a new vitality.
Ellis appears first time in Bad Seeds’ No More Shall We Part, ten years ago. The two never separated since.

Nick Cave has fun and found a humour in Grinderman who was unknown.
No Pussy Blues, from their first album, tells the story of an old rocker not able to impress his groupies anymore. It is the most exhilarating set of lyrics I came across in a couple of decades. Self humour at his best.

No Pussy Blues

My face is finished, my body’s gone.
And I can’t help but think standin’ up here in all this applause and gazin’ down at all the young and the beautiful.
With their questioning eyes.
That I must above all things love myself.

I saw a girl in the crowd,
I ran over I shouted out,
I asked if I could take her out,
But she said that she didn’t want to.

I changed the sheets on my bed,
I combed the hairs across my head,
I sucked in my gut and still she said
That she just didn’t want to.

I read her Eliot, read her Yeats,
I tried my best to stay up late,
I fixed the hinges on her gate,
But still she just never wanted to.

I bought her a dozen snow-white doves,
I did her dishes in rubber gloves,
I called her Honeybee, I called her Love,
But she just still didn’t want to. She just never wants to.

I sent her every type of flower,
I played her guitar by the hour,
I patted her revolting little chihuahua,
But still she just didn’t want to.

I wrote a song with a hundred lines,
I picked a bunch of dandelions,
I walked her through the trembling pines,
But she just even then didn’t want to. She just never wants to.

I thought I’d try another tack,
I drank a litre of cognac,
I threw her down upon her back,
But she just lay up and said that she just didn’t want to.

I thought I’d have another go,
I called her my little ho,
I felt like Marcel Marceau
must feel when she said that she just never wanted to. She just didn’t want to.

I got the no pussy blues.

So far so good, but?
There are downsides on having a genius musicians in your band.
Ellis unstoppable and unmanageable creativity had an impact.

The first victim was Blixa Bargeld who, after a short cohabitation left Bad Seeds to dedicate full time to Einsturzende Neubauten.
It was no difficult to see an “either me or him” situation. The attempt to keep them together in Nocturama ended up in one of the less convincing albums.

Those days the natural choice for the Bad Seeds was to let Bargeld go and let Ellis in.

Last year the other long time Cave partner, Mick Harvey, left the Bad Seeds too.
I wasn’t surprised. When I saw Harvey with the band the last time, he looked marginalized and bored. It felt like the end of love. Still having a huge role on the band’s sound. Cave was all up to Ellis extravagance snubbing Harvey familiar seriousness.

For the records, Mick Harvey and Nick Cave have been playing together since the Birthday Party at the end of the seventies. To keep it in perspective, this is not just a line-up change, it is like Keith Richard leaving the Rolling Stones, few years after Brian Jones departure!

Since Mick Harvey left (to join the court of her majesty PJ Harvey with whom he has recorded and toured Let England Shake) there hasn’t been a Bad Seeds album.
I don’t really know what direction the band will take. I struggle to think at something very different from Grinderman to be honest.

There have been announcement that Bad Seeds are going to record new material in the future.
I am optimistic, confident in Nick Cave brilliant song-writing form and the fact that it has never existed such a thing as a bad Bad Seeds album.

So what is this worrying mood permeating these lines?
It’s something I started ruminating at the second Grinderman gig I attended this year at their ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror slot: Warren Ellis.

I may be controversial to universal plaudit but I am convincing myself that Warren Ellis from being Nick Cave saviour is turning into his burden.
Differently from the amazing work he does on Dirty Tree, his other and original band, in Nick Cave’s projects Ellis seems more and more self-referential. Like a virus, his presence is ever expanding into Nick Cave’s music.

This expansion is in quantity rather than quality. Ellis does one single thing, he messes up Nick Cave melodic and sugary inclination. He is, pretty much as Bargeld before him, transversal. Distorsion, noise, screamy violins arrange the music avoiding that Nick Cave songs drift into Morrissey-sque stuff.

For the first couple of albums on two different bands, Ellis contribution sounded perfect and fresher than Bargeld. On the long run it begins being redundant.
His anarchic approach levels Grinderman songs that, originally, are not similar at all.

With Dirty Tree and Bad Seeds both planning to record new material in 2012 my wish is that the pair will disengage for a while to detoxify.

It would bring to the fantastic scenario of having, at the same time, a new Dirty Tree album, Bad Seeds doing the Bad Seeds and, in few years, Grinderman coming back together at full speed. Bargain!

Grinderman are on the net here: [website] [myspace] [facebook] [twitter]

Photo tip

Nick Cave requires a photo tip all for himself.
Nick Cave hates photographers. I don’t know if this is public knowledge, but any concert photographer knows.

He makes things difficult for us.
Out of my seven gigs, I managed to get a photopass twice.
This year ATP festival, where these pics were shot, and some years ago for the “solo tour”.

Nick Cave restrictions are always harsh. That first time it was hilarious.
We were allowed to shoot the first song only, only from the back of the venue, on the far left. Cave sat at the piano for the entire song and the piano was unusually positioned on the right. All in the dark.
With my film cameras and a 200mm I didn’t manage to get anything usable. I had a seat in a front row and managed to steal some better shots from there but nothing good enough to my criteria to post here.

At a Bad Seeds gig I attended at the Apollo Hammersmith, he had an argument with a photographer. Similar reason. Photographers were allowed to shoot the first song only that was performed in complete darkness. As soon as the song ended and photographers were escorted out, lights went on bright and beautiful. A photographer insulted Cave, he replied.

Grinderman this year were rumoured to have a rights grab release form to sign. Thankfully there was nothing at this show. I wouldn’t have shot them.

Pit conditions still are harsh. Photographers were split in two groups, some on the left, others on the right of the pit. First song only, as usual.
I got the left side, wrong choice since Warren Ellis stands on the right and Cave flirts mostly with him. A telephoto affair throughout, thankfully with enough light to take some shots.

After the song he started interacting and being amusing. I took some photos from the crowd, something I also suggest doing where possible.

If you get to shoot Nick Cave, be ready to have a short, hard time.

~ by Valerio on September 4, 2011.

4 Responses to “Grinderman”

  1. Great pics! You even got him pointing people with his finger! He told me that it took him so long to play guitar cause if he did he would not have been able to point the fingers at people…

  2. I’ve been waiting for that moment about 20 years!
    Point was to avoid that the f#@%ing microphone stood in the way.

  3. ik ken ook allees van boys newxt door, birthsay , einbstuerzende neubauten, blixa bargeld, grinderman grindserman2, heb zijn drie boeken gelezen en drie films gezien.
    en die-hard cave dame. good stuff you.ve got. i am moderatorin on you tube , if you find the time check out staggersu channel on you tube. ik hen 606 films in 18 maand gedaan.
    greets staggersu

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