THE BIRTDAY PARTY
ALBUM 4AD RELEASE: JULY 5, 1999 REVIEW: SEPTEMBER 6, 1999
The essence of The Birthday Party was always frustration. Ian Johnstons
biography of Nick Cave, "Bad Seed", describes the band's odyssey of drugs
and scandalous gigs around England at the time of these recordings. The
supposedly vivid London scene had prompted their move from Australia, but
once in London they were disgusted with what they heard. Also, money was low
and the personal problems within the group - including severe drug abuse -
As with all decent self destructive rock bands, this frustration seems to
have made for brilliant stage performances. Even on this record, the sheer
intensity of the playing hits you in the face. The people hammering out
these songs aren't trying to rock and roll. Rather, they appear to be
playing as exorcism, with their own souls at stake if they fail.
Later, Nick Cave would gradually start exploring the blues and other more
traditional musical styles, with the intensity of The Birthday Party still
firmly embedded in the core of the song. For better or worse, that fury is
unpolluted here in this early stage. "Release the Bats" sounds just like
that: a swarm of angry and dangerous small creatures bursting out of the
speakers. On the other hand the band handles eerily beautiful "She's Hit"
just as well. Here we hear Tracey Pew, now deceased, delicately twanging the strings
of the bass like some very poor lonesome cowboy.
The Birthday Party, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division
and a couple of hundreds of others are bands that make you curse
yourself for not being 18 years old and living in London in the early
eighties. This is your chance to live out that fantasy in your living room.
Think Thatcherism, bad hairdos and getting knocked in the head with a mike
stand. Gulp down a mouthful of stale beer, put the record on and you're