I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a movie called Grindhouse and a record by a band called Grinderman were released a week apart. Furthermore, both address the state of the modern man in their own creative ways. With the emergence of stay at home dads, metro-sexuality and bisexuality, the old school image of man has been stripped of all his traditional masculinity. We’ve not only seen it in our society but in pop culture like in our movies and literature with the Rob Gordons of the world and the emergency of the emo generation, boys wearing girls’ jeans; the idea of the sensitive male had taken over the world.
When did this happen? How has the macho man been castrated and vilified in our society? When did a man looking like me, thin and with only brain muscle become the ideal for the modern woman? When I was growing up I couldn’t get a date to save my life. The guys in my school were all taking steroids to pump themselves up to be noticed by the girls in my school. Nowadays, if you’re a man and you have too much muscle you’re seen as a freak, just as I was seen not so long ago, being the skinny male.
Would I call this a revolution or step back for evolution? Good question; I like to think of myself in the Nick Cave camp, a new breed of the evolved man who’s a lover and a fighter. While Grindhouse was all about girl power, Grinderman is about putting the man back on top in this age of political correctness or as Frank T.J. Mackey so eloquently said in Magnolia, it’s time to bring respect to the cock again. And who better to bring that respect back then Nick Cave?
Nick Cave gets some help with his band of banditos: Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos, all of them styled in their old school Western beards and mutton chops straight out of the characters from Nick Cave’s film The Proposition, the testosterone blood bath of a movie that I believe inspired the creation of this band. Taking a monetary sabbatical from The Bad Seeds, Cave decided to harness all of this male energy with this project. Under the advice of side man Ellis, Cave attempted to write songs that didn’t deal with God or Love. The result is Grinderman.
Grinderman begins with a announcement by Cave “I’ve got to get up to get down and start all over again….kick all of those mother fuckers out and get it on.” And so we begin. “Get It On” is the symbolic unearthing of the traditional man by the Grinderman: “He’s got some words of wisdom/I’ve got some words of wisdom…get it on.” The lyrics are primal and mostly improvisational, something Cave hasn’t done since his days at the helm of The Birthday Party.
The first single is “No Pussy Blues,” a quintessential Grinderman track which relates to the theme of the album. The essence of the Grinderman is all about this song. “I read her Eliot I read her Yates I did my best to stay up late/I fixed the hinges on her gate but still she never wanted to.” As the band grinds its way with their dynamic fuzz guitar riffs, pounding drum beats and killer bass lines, Cave reads off the reasons the girl on his mind has rejected him. “I got the no pussy blues…” Cave roars over and over again with the primordial beats behind him. From the romantic to the rugged, we’ve all been there, guys. Cave brings to life how it feels to be rejected by the one we longed to pleasure with every measure of his lyrical flare, and he brings us back there to these moments in a way that only Nick Cave can sing. Ellis, Casey and Sclavunos bring an aggression and give life to the Grinderman on songs like “Electric Alice.” These guys provide the brawn to Cave’s beat like lyrics, and Grinderman wouldn’t work without these men behind our mythic frontman.
“Yes I am the Grinderman, yes I am…in my pale moonlight…in the silver rain…anyway I can,” Cave croons at the end of “Grinderman” as the riffs come out to howl at the moon. The guitar sounds like an extension in the agony of the man. The man who is aching to be free for the yearning for expressing his primal love to thee, the one in his heart, in his sights that is what I believe the Grinderman is. A mythical creature brought to life by Cave and his gang of outlaw cronies.
“I saw you walking down on the street/I called out from the window but you didn’t hear me,” Cave sings on “Don’t Set Me Free,” like an inverse Romeo calling out to his Juliet from his own window. Casey’s bass line brings this song to life, echoing the chase of the man trying to woo the woman in his dreams. As Cave achingly sings “I don’t want you to set me free,” it’s as if he wants the idea of their connection to linger to beat on in his head and in his dreams. “We’ve done our thing/we have evolved,” Nick Cave sings on “Go Tell The Women,” “But we are tired/we’re hardly breathing and we’re free, go tell the women that we’re leaving.” This song is essentially a list of reasons why some men have given up on women, becoming celibate creative creatures who have turned their energies from the search for women into their craft and trade.
It has been ages since an artist like Nick Cave and a band like Grinderman has sung the awful, yet endlessly amusing truth about the struggles of being a lustful man into these disconnected and lonely times. Grinderman wants us to celebrate the essence in ourselves as hungry men and ride our snakes inside the gardens of our prospective Edens. So what if we’re difficult and have trouble communicating? We’re men. We are fearless, we are foolish, we’re hard and we’re loud. Cave is our leader in the world of Grinderman, making us proud and lending an invitation to crank it up and let it all hang out.