Despite his various successes, Nick Cave's musical work is still his raison d'être. Grinderman 2, the sophomore release by Cave's newest side project, is a revelation. Like the snarling wolf that adorns its cover, Grinderman 2 is out for blood: Full of unhinged rock, apocalyptic blues and hilariously prurient lyrics, it's one of the year's most exhilarating releases.
Opener "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man" segues from its ethereal, vaguely jazzy intro into a screeching, driving rock anthem. Lyrically, the album is as preoccupied with the carnal as the group's 2007 eponymous debut (see "No Pussy Blues," "Get It On"), without being quite so on-the-nose. Take the squelching, propulsive "Worm Tamer," which gets maximum joy out of Cave's descriptions of his special lady (from "snake charmer" to "mambo rider"). Yet, Cave's delivery of the song's chorus ("I guess that I've loved you for too long") twists the statement into something that is part despondency, part celebration.
"Heathen Child" is a funky, stamping rave-up that finds Cave bellowing and snapping off his lyrics. The hallucinogenic atmospherics (with fuzzy electronics and squealing violins) of the epic "When My Baby Comes" shift into a bombastic wall of guitar and distortion for its prolonged conclusion. And the haunted psychedelic whispers of "What I Know" provide the album's only real respite.
"Evil," a throttling rocker, may be the album's weakest cut. Instead, it's easier to favor the phenomenal, cocksure strut of "Kitchenette" or the beautiful shimmer of "Palaces of Montezuma." Cave, like Dylan and Waits, seems to understand that music should not age gracefully.