There is some biblical thunder going on up there. Breathing fire and brimstone and speaking in tongues with songs of lust and fury Grinderman are, perhaps, the best rock band in the world. Their sound is all at once tough, dark and spliced with a foul, black humour. Like a bunch of gunslingers posing as god’s servants they take the stage in beautifully cut suits and some of the best hair and beards on god’s own stinking earth.
Formed as the Mini Seeds as a break from the Bad Seeds in 2006, the band are far more than a side project now. They are running loose round Europe on the festival circuit, kicking out the jams with one serious, unholy racket. They are energising, explosive and the set they play is so riveting it gives you the same sort of rush that seeing Robert johnson in a shack or Little Richard pimping his stuff in the fifties or the Stooges at their must feral must have done. Sometimes you get the chance to peer into the true heart of darkness of rock n roll and you get to see something like this, a seething, mesmerising seesaw of filthy genius.
It’s rare to see rock n roll this below the belt dirty and dissonant.
When the Birthday Party first came over to the UK in the early eighties they were a shock to the system for many but for some of us they were a reaffirmation of a lonely, noisy road that we were already on with their out of control filth and smoking bible blues they were quite brilliant. Those early shows will stick in my mind as a yardstick of how out of control and yet how cleverly compacted and intense rock n roll can be.
Nick Cave then coasted into middle age with the Bad Seeds with music that seemed like it was matching a certain maturity with a refinement that never lost its dark soul.
Grinderman were a return to the ‘fuck you’ roots of the band and have become a vehicle for the wild side of Cave who looks splendid in his sharp cut, pin stripe as he prowls the stage lost in a world of words and preacherman shapes. Grinderman is the soundtrack to a dissolute middle age and a return to the feral fuck you of his youth. it’s a leering sex beast and the best music he has done. The band are great, they make a lot of noise for a four piece, Cave is perfectly foiled by the enigmatic Warren Ellis who never seems to flinch hidden behind his tumbledown beard. Ellis supplies some of the great noises from his battery of unusual instruments – great squalls of sound that explode from the song’s gasping chassis before tucking back in to add to the bump n grind of the music. the spine is bludgeoning perfection from Martyn Casey’s rock solid and Jim Sclavunos brilliant drums. Sclavunos a clever drummer he has the raw power but also fractures the beats, adding emphasis when needed, underlining the drama and the tension.
Gridnerman and Primevera. Now this is a combination.
One of the best rock n roll band’s in the world at one of the best festivals in the world… Perfect.
Primevera, sighted on the Barcelona seafront, has everything that a British festival normally doesn’t. It’s warm, it’s near a great city and it goes on all night. It also has an amazing bill of bands. Suicide are on later, Public Image just played and Shellac are on tomorrow. It’s hardly the beer and burgers converter belt of grab your money, dustbin indie we have to normally put up with.
Grinderman must have about 20,000 people watching them deal out a great combination of songs from their two eponymous albums. They don’t play straight though, they fuck with them, there’s new bits, jammed out sections, added splotches of filthy sound from Cave’s terrified keyboards that he slams into when he’s not prowling the stage. There’s razor sharp guitar aggro and a shit tight rhythm section. It’s a seesaw of zigzagging sound, gunshot blues through a mangle- taking the audience on a wild trip. Only at primavera could something this extreme, this wild seem like a natural headliner.
And you know what’s really cool. The audience go with it. Thousands of fresh faced Spanish kids being taken on a devilish ride by this pied piper of the dark side.
All rock n roll should be this horny and deadly and it should also come armed with the sort lyrics that pour out of Cave’s mouth- poetic shrapnel, doggerel and sheer blissful story telling poetry that is both parts dark and darkly funny.
Grinderman are on top of their game and wham you see band this good, this tight with each other, this off the wall and this perfect then you are in luck. They end with a loose, out of control and utterly thrilling version of their drooling ‘No Pussy Blues’ a song that some called a mid life crisis. Tonight it sounds anything but. It sounds like a strident, no holds barred work of unbridled lust – like Grinderman themsleves, the very definition of rock n roll.
Read a recent LTW interview with Grinderman HERE