Oh c’mon baby, let’s get out of the cold And give me your precious love to hold
—Nick Cave, “Palaces of Montezuma”
So listening to Grinderman recently (and obsessively) has got me thinking about things like great art and the sincerity of expression and the total techno overload of the modern world. And how often do we get to think of such things while trapped inside cubes playing the lab rat blues? Not often enough. Because encountering something so real and true that hits you squarely in the jaw and takes hold of you so completely is a luxury, a revelation, a rare act of discovery and defiantly unmodern. These days, it’s all about Irony and the Total Noise Society (thank you Mr. Wallace) that we’re constantly finding ourselves up against, trying to fight our way through to that sliver of shining light somewhere at the other end of the cosmos (or the other side of the Internet), and when do we ever really have time to go interior and open up and feel something really fucking real and great?
Not often, indeed.
And so this is transportational music that places you anywhere but here, and it’s a wailing howl against everything that’s fake and everything that totally sucks.
So yeah, it’s got me thinking about how to break through the waves of white noise and layers of bullshit we are bombarded with that has no meaning, no substance, no mystery, no reason for being, that can neither be confirmed nor rebuked. And it’s got me thinking about how to overcome the things that damn up the mind flow and sour the brain in a rotting stew of stupidity and forgotten history, made-up lies of pop nihilism and dead thought.
But it’s also got me thinking about Mickey Mouse (creepy and weird and what’s up with that voice, anyway?) and Steve McQueen (always epic and always beautiful) and evil (pure, final, unsympathetic) and worm taming (sort of) and the epic of Gilgamesh (who fucking writes about that?) and did Nick Cave really say, “Miles Davis the black unicorn?”
So this is Grinderman…
Nick Cave and a band of smugglers, hooligans, scallywags, bad seeds, delinquents, rogues, scoundrels, flat-out rowdy troublemakers, Cormac McCarthy-type garage punks with wicked black ink coursing through their veins and strange facial hair and even stranger shirts. This is Grinderman and they are writing Dante-on-pills paeans to Hell and Pussy and all sorts of Mad Dogs and Englishmen-type scary shit. It’s all biblical blues and psych-punk feedback, it’s every heathen country gospel howl ever written in the history of work songs, sea shanties, industrial folk songs, chain-gang songs and field songs, turned upside down and inside out and trampled on with pounding sound and that old-time allegorical fury.
Yes, this music is filled with Total Noise—random, hapless, scarred, messy, cruel, harsh, piercing—but ultimately it’s noise of the sublimely beautiful variety, the transcendental kind, it’s the kind of noise that makes you realize you’re alive in the here and now and doing fine, even if it’s only for this one moment, this one song, this one stretch of absolute clarity, clocking in at just under three minutes, and how thoroughly wide awake you are, and it’s all because you stumbled upon this little thing, this little diamond in the rough, like walking in the park and spotting that red robin and how that reminded you of a time when you were young and didn’t have to worry about being wide awake because of course you already were because of the innocence of being unburdened by your own mind fury and, unlike that sweet little robin, you could foresee death in all its wicked finality, and so on and so forth…
Raw humanity. The anti-Internet. The opposite of all the zeroes and ones buzzing around inside your head.
Songs from the other side of the unreal.
“…outside-the-bowling-alley songs, behind-the-Moxie-billboard songs, Saturday-night open-me-another-quart songs, all saying, honey, it don’t matter where you’ve been, let’s not live in the past, right now’s all there is…”
—Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
Is anything real anymore? Well, Grinderman is.
Open up, let it in, and have a go at grasping the infinite.