The Birthday Party's first 'proper' album (released in 1981, it was preceded by an eponymously-titled collection of EPs and singles) is a bona-fide rock classic. Although many critics prefer its successor, Junk Yard, for me Prayers on Fire has the edge, largely because of the inclusion of the terrifying Zoo Music Girl and King Ink. Although the band's arty, jazz-influenced sound was startlingly original, Cave's demented screaming and taste for self-degradation ( e.g. Figure of Fun, Nick The Stripper) recall Iggy Pop in his prime with The Stooges. As is the way with great talents, Cave built intelligently on rock's history and heritage without seeming merely derivative, and in so doing, produced a record that still sounds fresh and original after two decades. An essential purchase!
When this album landed on these shores it was hard to believe that something so right had suddenly splashed down amidst some of the worst music being commited in the u.k.It was post -punk time and everyone seemed to be self conscious and austere ,no show of emotions..a cooling off period...Then,BAM!Prayers On Fire arrived like a drunken Uncle at a Family Barbecue....One listen to Zoo Music Girl,the opening track ,will set up the onslaught to come ..Superb baby-Burundi drumming with a boiling brutal bass sat atop...itchy-scratchy guitars wading in through separate channels and then the booming tone of Mr.Nick Cave arrives...his lyrics a cut-up psychobabble of animal lust and cradled desire...And its got a singalong chorus too!It ends with a faded out trumpet the band still burning underneath..A brief rest and then a great drum and bass motif usher us into 'Cry'which features a slightly more subdued Cave until the chorus rips the top of your skull off! The power in this band is luckily captured forever on this album as they had yet to begin the transition toward their own take on world weary blues with the drummer,Phil Calvert,taking a backseat more often than not.Their poppunknewwave influences are still apparent on many tracks and also occasional displays of silliness(Capers)autobiographical confession (Nick The Stripper)and near perfect rock (King Ink)...At the heart of all this is a band at the top of its awesome power about to look inside itself and piece by piece,hack itself apart.