Grinderman – Heathen Child

Release Date 30/08/2010 (Mute Records)

By Chris Gilliver

For a few years in the mid 60s Bob Dylan attained a level of genius very few musicians have reached before or since. With humour, bile and impossible eloquence he spat out incisive songs that to this day seem to glimpse at some higher truth. Nick Cave has reached a similar plateau. The paranoid, often highly sexual and violent subject matter of his songs fascinates for obvious reasons. But less obviously there is the sense that Cave will not let anything impede the expression of his vision – not even self-doubt or shame. This imbues in his voice the confidence of a prophet. His words, no matter how depraved or absurd, take on a truthfulness that is totally captivating.

In Heathen Child his voice is sadly dampened, it should always be at the forefront. Still, as he rambles rather nervously about the Heathen Child sitting in the bath tub, “Afraid of her fingers”, it’s clear that the loss of the prominence of his vocals hasn’t curtailed his capacity for madness. The wailing, fuzzy, discordant guitars of Warren Ellis (also of The Dirty Three) increases this sense of paranoia, and the bass line of Martin P. Casey dirties and drives it on – Grinderman isn’t all Nick Cave you know.

I prefer the more harmonious work of the Bad Seeds, but that’s just a question of personal taste. I usually go for melody over mood. This does not detract from the fact that Heathen Child is an excellent, albeit disturbing, track. Nick Cave is at the top of his game here, and the rest of Grinderman know exactly how to maximise the peculiarities of his craftsmanship. The upcoming album promises big things!

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