As if they were Amy Winehouse, after the sudden death of Grinderman, a bunch of treats are being put out to soften the blow for their unconditional fans. There were many who felt orphaned after the news of the break-up of the band, announced by Nick Cave in concert in Australia last 10th December alongside his buddies of the last five years, Warren Ellis (violin and guitar), Martyn Casey (bass) and Jim Sclavunos (drums). Now we have a collection with remixes and previously-unreleased versions of their second and last album, “Grinderman 2” (2010).
So what’s the problem? There will be some who won’t think a proposal like this makes any sense; but on the other hand, many others, all of the big fans running around at a loose end out there, are going to savour these 12 new cuts. One has to admit, the list of collaborators is amazing. It is understood that all of them are friends of Nick Cave’s, and the truth is that the Australian seems to have good taste - even for choosing his buddies. What are we going to find? To start off with, Robert Fripp (King Crimson) seasoning “Heathen Child” to taste (to which he adds “Super” in the title) with his usual virtuosity on the guitar; although he provides new nuances, the original song was almost impossible to improve upon. British DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall also tries his hand with this cut, deconstructing it completely, and although the result has nothing to do with the piece that it’s based on, it does have its charm.
There is also a duel, in this case with three sides, between Matt Beringer (vocalist from The National), Factory Floor and Grinderman themselves, to see who will spit out the best version of “Evil”. The first opts for adding dark vocals (it could be no other way) and oppressive, disquieting atmospheres, and this is perhaps the winning bid. The second remix has more meat than the London group’s - but there is a bit of a mess with trying to empty the song of contents, and it ends up leaving an insipid industrially-manufactured shell. Nick Cave’s band may not improve upon their first version, but they once again show their ability to laugh at themselves and experiment for the simple pleasure of having a good time.
The game continues with Nick Zinner (guitar and keyboard player for Yeah Yeah Yeahs), who takes on the gigantic, complex “Bellringer Blues”. His changes aren’t as radical as other people’s, but he does manage to provide a new vision by taking the song’s ethnic percussion further. For his part, Josh Homme (leader of Queens Of The Stone Age) proposes an insane asylum exercise by inserting pieces of electrified spoken word and exhausting rhythmic effects into “Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Men”, which he renames “Mickey Bloody Mouse”.
Cat’s Eyes approach to “When My Baby Comes” with the collaboration of Luke Tristram, is also not exactly simple; the remix sounds thick and dreamy (depending on the day), while Rachel Zeffira’s voice slips in among nightmarish atmospheres. Next come the good folk from A Place To Bury Strangers to throw a crackling version of “Worm Tamer” in our faces, with their noisy machinery on full speed. Each to his own, but I prefer the view that UNKLE offers of this same song. The British duo saturates the melody with fat bass, making the song into an addictive drug.
And so we reach the end with the two final bonbons: SixToes, who provide a minimalist, almost spiritual touch to the same piece that Faris Badwan chose with Cat’s Eyes (and they win the combat, if only because their adaptation doesn’t have such a bad vibe); and Barry Adamson (formerly of Bad Seeds), who flies over the already lovely “Palaces Of Montezuma” with extreme respect. Then game over. Those who are left wanting more play should take a look at the videos that they have recorded exclusively for some of the remixes. In some cases (watch SixToes) they are as interesting as the songs themselves.