In recent years Nick Cave’s faultlessness has become blindingly apparent. A side project isn’t customarily known to overshadow a primary band. With Grinderman, however, Cave rediscovered his dirtier, darker muse and became inspired enough to release two albums that overshadow more recent Bad Seeds offerings. Suddenly, Cave growing a sleazy moustache made sense. So good was Grinderman’s second and (allegedly) final album, Grinderman 2, that not even something as expendable as a remix compilation can sully its artistry. Although not the first artists one would expect to release a remix album, Grinderman 2 RMX encourages the listener to revisit the source material and be pummeled into submission and wowed all over again.
With the exception of Andrew Weatherwall — who provides a take on “Heathen Child” — no celebrity mixers appear, but the artists chosen still make sense in that they are all either affiliated in some way or share a similar sensibility to the Grinderman/Bad Seeds sound. The album’s real standouts are the remixes given to “Worm Tamer”, with A Place to Bury Strangers’ emerging as the victor. Theirs is a reworking that hearkens back to the noise scene’s germination, and it does its motivators proud. UNKLE’s remix, renamed “Hyper Worm Tamer”, gives the track a virtual surf-rock feel without sacrificing the original song’s sinister edge.
In most cases, it’s the younger noiseniks, as opposed to Grinderman comrades, who turn in more inspired remixes. Former Bad Seed Barry Adamson’s version of “Palaces of Montezuma” is nice but largely unremarkable. Likewise, Robert Fripp’s guitar-fortified take on “Heathen Child” is quickly forgotten after more unique interpretations of other tracks take the stage. A remix of “When My Baby Comes” by Cat’s Eyes — the side project of The Horrors’ Faris Badwan — is far more remarkable, thanks in no small part to soprano Rachel Zeffira’s eerily stifled vocals subbing for Cave’s. The Nick Zinner remix of “Bellringer Blues” is a primal treat.
A standard criticism of Grinderman 2 RMX is that it contains too many modifications of the same song. While the lumping together of all the takes on “Evil!” is a little questionable, each alteration is unique enough to stand on its own. One “Evil!” inclusion isn’t a remix but rather the demo recording of the song, which is easily the least necessary cut on the album, and stating such a thing should speak volumes about the remixes and the artists recruited. Silver Alert’s take on “Evil!” indulges in vocal manipulation, but is rescued by an appearance from the National’s Matt Berninger, who renders lines like “who needs children, you are my child/crying like a demon in your daddy’s arms” as almost romantic sentiments. Factory Floor’s rendering of the same song is expectedly unsettling.
Listening to Grinderman 2 RMX makes one wish that the rumors of Snoop Dogg doing a version of “No Pussy Blues” — from Grinderman’s debut — were true. While not a conventional remix release by any means, it’s a wholly fitting compilation. Just as Cave’s Grinderman has toyed with the idea of how older artists should behave, Grinderman 2 RMX toys with the concept of the remix and proves that reworkings need not be danceable, they just need to appear a bit bruised.