Being a female Nick Cave fan is perilous. I'd say that it's on par with being a female James Bond fan.
In both instances, women are depicted as vixens, victims, or passive receptors for sexually frustrated man-boys with clear objectives. In the case of James Bond, his objective has always been to triumph over various manifestations of Cold War-style evil in the name of God (or God's emissary, the Queen), gold, and glory. As a feminist, I know logically that Bond is misogynist tripe. Yet as an Anglophile and Cold War wonk, I simply cannot get enough of 007. Similarly, in the case of Nick Cave, his decades-long objective has been to triumph over the evil mediocrity of sub-par music in the name of God, girls, and (noisy) genius. As a feminist, I know logically that women are props in Cave's literate songs, propelling him along from one metaphor to the next. Yet as a discerning music fan with a penchant for the seedy and unseemly, I simply cannot get enough of him.
Aussie Cave started his music career in Melbourne as the front man for the Birthday Party. That group's badgering frenetic dissonance was difficult to sustain and they soon imploded under the weight. Before long, Cave launched Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, by far his most successful venture. Since The Bad Seeds, Cave has written books, screenplays, and scored a couple of searing Western films, including The Proposition and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Now he's fronting yet another band, the frightening, reverently shambolic Grinderman.
The first eponymous Grinderman release came out in 2007. Comprised of eleven gloriously cacophonous songs that could dislodge fillings if played loudly enough, Grinderman was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the insecurities of the aging male rock star—one that could easily be mistaken for sexist noise. Example: “No Pussy Blues,” which starts with a clacking typewriter and the words "My face is finished/My body's gone/And I can't help but think/Standing up here in all this applause/And gazing down at all the young and the beautiful/With their questioning eyes/That I must above all things love myself." It then leads into the tale of one man's desperate attempt to get the attention of one such beautiful young coquette.
Now there's the sequel: Grinderman 2. The deluxe edition comes with an illustrated sixty-page booklet, as well as a fold-out poster. The poster depicts the band looking blasé while dressed in plastic gladiator costumes and lounging about on what appears to be a high school cafeteria stage. We clearly see them here as elevated men who have grown weary of the unrealistic expectation that they be deities.
The men in these songs are fed up with what they perceive as lives wasted on empty pursuits (cited as “booze, drugs, husbands, wives, and making money” on “When My Baby Comes”), especially in light of the crazed chaos being created by the ubiquitous and wicked “they.” The women in these songs have no names. They are all “her,” or are spoken of in a possessive context: “my girl,” “my baby”—relevant only in relation to each song's male protagonist. We are never made aware of the women’s responses to the questions posed/actions taken by the men addressing them.
This album’s nine songs act as a different manifestation of the midlife crisis shown on the first album. Where Grinderman was all sweaty frustrated id, Grinderman 2 teeters back and forth between the realism of ego and the moralizing of super-ego. Here be monsters—noisy apocalyptic crypto-zoological monsters, like the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman—as depicted to great tragicomic effect with the song “Worm Tamer.” From its snarling wolf on the cover and its songs about “Evil” and a “Heathen Child,” Grinderman 2 feels vicious, choked with a brutish fatalistic beauty.