The prolific reviewer of unfashionable lost' gems has his work cut out yet again. It's not a huge challenge I suppose; sitting at a laptop listening to cracking music over and over again (that's when I'm not out hellraising you understand), trying to convey in mere words what this stuff has meant over the years, and trying to impart a suggestion to any pop people out there in cyber land, what a certain group or sound is all about. Mere words.
Any-one coming to the Birthday Party now is in for a surprise. It'll come as no surprise to learn that I think (therefore its true!) this compilation of their early singles, bits and bobs and whatever, contains their best work.
Vitally, it kicks off with a stormer: 'Mr. Clarinet' and I dear reader, trusted friend, am struggling to illustrate just how good this song is. Screeching guitar and wild sax lead us into singer Nick Caves' wailing, haunting performance. He sounds as if he's in genuine pain, not just suffering for his 'art'. First time I heard it, I thought the rest of the band were proper torturing him; you don't make noises like that unless your bits are in a mediaeval device!
Anyway, that out of the way, we are then treated to another 12 stand-out songs; each very different but each defined by the obviously insane Caves' eerie vocals. Tellingly, and blatantly, he's coming from the Pere Ubu/ Cramps camp (former brilliant, latter tedious), and this is one of those numerous occasions when the pupil turns out cleverer than the mentor, 'Guilt Parade' indeed!
Later on, he has a nervous breakdown during 'the Hair Shirt' but that fabulous group (I was gonna say behind him, but I think they're more to the side) just keep him this side of the abyss with some extraordinarily tight thrash and percussion. This is invigoratingly original and thoroughly modern rock music.
Whether Cave is genuinely crackers is another matter entirely, but you certainly wouldn't invite him round for dinner on this form (imagine if it was spaghetti!).
Somebody told me the Birthday Party popped a bit when they came to England (I always do), perhaps they should've stayed put in Oz. Clearly, you shouldn't deprive a genius/mental of his inspiration.
Anyway, the Birthday Party's early stuff; nice and simple on a cd. Endearing and enduring. And not a donkey joke in sight.
If you like any of the Birthday Party's later stuff, then you'll love this. But beware - the track listing given is wrong, and this album doesn't include Release The Bats or Blast Off. But it does include Happy Birthday, Mr Clarinet and The Friend Catcher, as well as other tracks that were recorded by the Boys Next Door just before they changed their name and early stuff by BP. For a proper track listing have a look at the import version, which is also on Amazon. Ignore "Door Door", which even the band themselves didn't like - this is where the class stuff really begins.