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As songwriters go, it's hard to get much darker than Nick Cave: The man's reputation is built on decades of stomach-churning murder balladry. Age hasn't softened him, either, and he's not so much still pushing the envelope as shredding it with a blood-drenched machete.
Cave's latest band, Grinderman, recently opened its appropriately titled sophomore album, Grinderman 2, with "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man," the story of two sibling psychopaths and their nameless captive. Cave narrates as the lesser of these two evils, waking up to the harsh reality of his brother raising hell. The rage spills over onto the hostage.
Squealing guitar distortion and clips of dissonant strings build the music up and bring the mental image to an ugly low. What it means to suck someone dry is left to the imagination, though it can't be anything good if police are snooping around the front door. It's a tense, desperate situation that comes to an ugly climax. In a high-school poetry competition, this stuff might warrant a few parent-teacher conferences, but on a Nick Cave album, it's an artistic triumph.