The Birthday Party's - The Friend Catcher, began with a despairing wail of a lead guitar( courtesy of Roland Howard) , screaming angst, fear and horrific loathing. Into the musical sphere of the early eighties stepped one of Nick Cave's first lyrical monsters. Now, we have a new configuration Grinderman, a side project, so we are informed, the Bad Seeds still a force to be reckoned with, but resting. Cave's accomplices on this CD are the threesome he toured with last year; Martin P Casey, Jim Sclavunos and Warren Ellis. I mention the track 'The Friend Catcher' because with 'No Pussy Blues' on this CD, we have a lead guitar sound that would strip paintwork, this time coming from Mr Cave himself. This is, however, not just a return to form, he's never really lost it in my book, just grown in musical/lyrical strength and sophistication. So whilst his early work was primal,intense and overflowing with frustrated emotion, his recent work lyrically insinuates its way in, subtly unsettling our expectations. The focus on this CD seems to be sexual frustration - No Pussy Blues, Go tell the women and Depth Charge Ethel being fueled by foxed desires.
The new band flexes some quite substantial muscle here. Drawing on late Sixties R'n'B ( Cream anyone !) with a dose of The Stooges thrown in for added sexual thrust, best exemplified by 'Depth Charge Ethel'. On the opener 'Get it On' Cave improvises an opening intro, with strong echoes of his earlier deranged evangelical persona, the words evoking a strange feeling of being a perverted homage to Marc Bolan. The sound of Grinderman is at times painfully raw and impulsive, whilst poetically Cave provokes and teases. Sometimes, on 'Go tell the women' he treads on very un-PC territory - ' all we wanted was a little consensual rape in the afternoon, and a little more in the evening', but then Cave's lyric content has frequently been taken as being his personal opinion, when it really is just a character's stance, in this case describing the burnt out, redundant empire of contemporary manhood - 'Go tell the women that we're leaving' he says laconically. It's just one example of his dry, if not wry, sense of humour that permeates this album. It also contains classic Cave songs - ' Electric Alice' particularly burns slowly, a melancholic violin loop plays in the background, whilst he sings very simply and with characteristic regretful longing. It could easily join the company of his best work with the Bad Seeds. This album is a vital addition to a catalogue already rich in depth and breadth.