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The art of noiseGrinderman
Wed. July 25, 2007
Review and photos by Tony BonyataThere are many that specialize in the art of music, but far less in the art of noise. John Cage, Ornette Coleman, Karlheinz Stockhausen, The Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth are but a few who've, at one time or another, discarded either harmony or rhythm in their respective genres in favor of more non-traditional musical elements, such as feedback, electronic effects, utilizing normal everyday items as instruments, along with incorporating unique tunings and manipulations to traditional instruments.
Last night Nick Cave's latest monster, Grinderman (featuring Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos, all from Cave's longtime band The Bad Seeds) proved to be one of the most aggressive, virile and dangerous sounding acts of the entire lot of noise merchants. Despite that the 49 year-old musician has mellowed out for much of his later output with The Seeds (beginning in 1997 with one their crowning achievements, The Boatman's Call, and continuing through 2001's No More Shall We Part and much of Nocturama from 2003) the music committed to wax on Grinderman's recent self-titled release is more of a return to the bludgeoning, unapologetic post-punk from Cave's volatile first band, The Birthday Party.
As hard-hitting as the Grinderman album is, however, their sold-out Chicago show (this being only one of three U.S. cities, along with New York and San Francisco, scheduled on this rare mini-tour) proved all the more threatening as they deconstructed and then turned many of their numbers completely inside-out. The foursome produced cacophonic eruptions out of thin air as witnessed during "Honey Bee (Let's Fly To Mars)" and the hypnotizing "No [Expletive] Blues," while the Fu Manchu-mustachioed Cave's voice morphed from roguish croon (on the sparser number "Man in the Moon") to girlish falsetto (at the end of the twisted, lethargic blues dirge of "Go Tell The Women") to agonizing howls as if repeatedly getting stabbed in the legs ("No [Expletive] Blues").
While bassist Casey and drummer Sclavunos held both their respective positions and breakneck rhythms steady throughout their exhilarating two-hour performance, Ellis and Cave proved to be the lead instigators of these possessed musicians. Whereas Cave once led his sprawling seven-plus members of The Bad Seeds like an impassioned Pentecostal preacher, now when he wasn't either bashing his keys or tormenting his guitar (the latter which he just starting playing as the Grinderman sessions began) he spent much of the time lurched at the crest of the stage barking wildly into the mic as his spindly, spider-boned limbs flailed about as if inciting a riot. The hairy Ellis, likewise, seemed just as deranged (never mind that he looked like he just jumped from an old boxcar and onto the stage) as he wielded squalls from a mini four-stringed electric guitar on "(I Don't Need You To) Set Me Free," sporadically kicked cymbals in time and simultaneously worked both maracas and hand pedals to create a disorienting effect on the eerie "Electric Alice."
As proficient as each of the four individuals were on their own, though, it was their combined synergies as one venom-spitting hydra that allowed them to turn their songs into combustible blasts of raunchy, dissonant noise which shot through the packed house as if receiving a heavy dose of electro-shock therapy.
While few in attendance were expecting anything more than Grinderman tunes that evening, after the band performed every number from the album, Cave good-naturedly admitted at the start of the first of two lengthy encores that they didn't have anymore Grinderman songs and asked, "Would you like to hear some Bad Seeds?," before drastically altering versions of Seeds classics such as "Red Right Hand," "Jack The Ripper," "Deanna" and their more recent "The Lyre of Orpheus," where Cave coerced an echoing call-and-response from the crowd whenever he bellowed the words "Oh Mama."
Rude, raw and unrelenting this special stateside performance of Grinderman also proved to be utterly perfect noise.
|Grinderman's July 25th Chicago Setlist|
Get It On
Depth Charge Ethel
(I Don't Need You To) Set Me Free
Honey Bee (Let's fly To Mars)
Go Tell The Women
Man in the Moon
When My Love Comes Down
No Pussy Blues
Red Right Hand (Encore I)
The Weeping Song (Encore I)
Deanna (Encore I)
The Lyre of Orpheus (Encore I)
The Ship Song (Encore II)
Jack The Ripper (Encore II)
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