Record Reviews: The Stooges & Grinderman

Iggy Pop and Nick Cave. For a couple of old fucks, these two still know how to bash your brains in with loose, noisy rock. Their latest projects are their attempts to return a bit to the wild, ranting glory days of their rebel youth. Iggy and the Stooges made raw Detroit skank-rock hot and turned it into proto-punk starting back as far as the late sixties. Nick Cave took the Ig's cue all the way in Australia and took it a step further into the extreme with the rest of The Birthday Party in the early eighties. Both were famous for teetering on the edge of sanity and addiction, self-mutilating onstage and absorbing themselves fully into the rock and roll myth. Both artists never lost their original vision, although both have had mellowing out phases. With the Bad Seeds, Cave created a dramatic body of work, from raw Elvis covers to sweepingly cinematic love tunes. Pop has never been less than prolific, but since '77's classic duo of The Idiot and Lust For Life, it seems Iggy's been running in place. His several dozen solo albums often suffer from trendy production, lack of inspiration, or just over-wackiness. Their new releases this month see them consciously making an effort to strip their schtick back down to basics, and for the most part, it actually works. The Weirdness is the first record in 24 years from the reunited Stooges. Kicking off with "Trollin'", a delightful tribute to "hanging out" (*cough* of one's pants), it's a fun, energetic record that sounds like it was recorded in one take with a minimum of production flare. It's a refreshing dose of no-frills, kick-ass, fun-time party rock that absolutely wilts lame mega-produced pop radio acts like The Fray and My Chemical Romance or whatever garbage is popular at the moment. The Ig takes a political turn on the harrowing anti-war scorcher "My Idea of Fun." Things turn sinister when his girl runs off with a "Mexican Guy". Pop has written some of his most entertaining lyrics here since his classic mid-70's era - his main subject as usual is the state of his frazzled brain, and on "I'm Fried" he finally nails it. Early reviews of the Weirdness have been less than kind - perhaps you have to be a long time Iggy fan like me to fully appreciate the quirks and nuances of his long career. The Weirdness isn't trying to change the face of popular music, but it is a fun listen and a great late continuation of the raw Stooges sound. Grinderman is the name of the band and Nick Cave wants to be just one of the lads on this self-titled debut. Cave's instrument has always been the piano, so just to be contrary and to keep things fresh, he decided to pick up the guitar, an instrument with which he was fairly unfamiliar. He came up with a couple of tunes and recruited a some of his Bad Seeds to record an album of raw, screeching blues-rock that manages to scare up the ghost of his old Birthday Party punk days. Being a non-guitarist, Cave manages to impress with his insane blasts of atonal feedback and whammy-bar action. Album highlight "No Pussy Blues" steals the old loud-quiet-loud thing from the Pixies, but twists it between it's legs and leaves it out of breath in the gutter. The verses are tense, just shuffling drums and a propulsive bassline, Cave going through one obsessive act after another to get his lover in the mood, and ruing "but still she just didn't want to!" before the strangling guitars and rushing percussion of the wordless chorus - Cave just yelps in frustration. It's such an undeniably classic rock-n-roll moment, the best white boy blues I've heard a Brit whip up in many-a-year. On "Electric Alice/Grinderman", Cave channels ex-Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld's hushed drama and scrapy guitar. "Depth Charge Ethel" is a delightfully noisy gospel mess, and "Honey Bee" is an organ-bumped rockabilly rave up with perverse intentions. On Grinderman, the energy level is significantly higher than that of a typical Bad Seeds album and so is the breathing room. I would have maybe trimmed the album down a bit: it does drag at times and there are a few filler cuts, torchy ballads that might have been best saved for the next Bad Seeds project. Overall though, Cave manages to defy his age and uphold his legend with an energetic, experimental record that's worth keeping for "No Pussy Blues" alone.

Hi Patrick,

I have nothing to say, but I think your blog needs comments. Even bad ones.

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