on 19 January 2001
Anti-social, violent, immense - it's difficult to define the Birthday Party's music without cheapening them. In the early eighties they were cultural outsiders in the music world, not simply because they were Australians in London, but because the punk scene that had lured them to England in the first place had, by 1980, either been diluted into popular culture or burnt itself out. High on heroin and art, low on frivolity, the Party had no obvious contemporaries beyond The Pop Group and The Fall. No matter - the Party thrived on the isolation and went about their mission with ruthless abandon. This long awaited live album finally captures them at what they did best - delivering rock n roll. With a singer as misanthropic as the young Nick Cave and a bass player who would allegedly pack a machete behind his instrument to sort out aggressive stage invaders, it comes as no surprise that Birthday Party gigs were chaotic, explosive, dangerous, almost performance art in their extremity. This rawness is fantastically captured here; if you ever want to hear a band playing as if their lives depended on it, this is where to find it. Mixing the literary with the cartoonish, the sound of Coltrane with rock n roll at its most visceral, the Party, like their heroes the Stooges, were as close to the edge as rock n roll ever got. This album is exhibit A to prove that fact. Tracks covered are taken from every part of their career leading up to the final 'Mutiny' EP, with the earlier stuff from 'Prayers on Fire', in particular 'A Dead Song', receiving a massive injection of power that the studio efforts failed to express. There is also evidence of the band's sense of humour, especially when they tear into a distressed version of the Stooges 'Funhouse'. The band imploded soon after, leaving Cave free to pursue an equally compelling solo career. Behind him he left a band that at their best combined a sound as urgent as rock n roll at its birth, colliding with no less than death itself; fantastic.
A colossal live artefact spinning from the early 80's, when structure, narrative and meaning dissolved into caustic acid, meanwhile visceral pointers emerged waving their arms. A violent artistic kickboot into the soft flabby midrift of sugar coated overflowered sanitisation.
Mainstream mullet culture panted along to Stringellows, pimped up in large shoulder gross pads and red elastic twanging braces, bopping its plastic soul to Planet Earth. Crying crocodiles, arriving at the journey to the end of the night, smooching to Gold, wondering why anyone wanted to hurt it whilst down in the dumps another ripped seam snorted through the darkness. Bereft of the aculturation of Porsche, Rolex, Dallas and Bacardi, it no longer joined the barricades but sought its desire in imminent release in lived dreams.
Cowboy Stacey and Velvet Rowland held this particular musical palette together with python skinned clasped tightness. Whilst the backbeat throbs along to Mick brushing the sticks, Nick preened to the thrall. This Cd is not at all out and out chaos, well at least not until the final splurge into Pop's maelstorm, long gonna reared Funhouse. A document to the Birthday Party holding it together, fused in one collective wavelength of energised fury. Surprisingly very tight live.
Rowlands guitar scythes through the syncopated chug whilst Nick splurges his liver, pancreas and bile duct in beserker frenzy onto the world stage; a controlled churning nuclear bomb. Elemental metal spnning as shards suspended in the air, derived from the 1st, 2nd long players the singles and one unreleased track mark. A tighly packed bag of nails heading your way courtesy of a now 30 year old overlonged for, hyper real, Madhatters Birthday Party.
Now do you remember the 80's?
on 4 June 2006
Nothing more to add beyond the above review, except that the Birthday Party cover of Fun House is the demonic, intense, terrifying, noisy and utterly insane piece of music ever. About 10 seconds of it is just Nick screaming, and I mean SCREAMING at the top of voice. The best!