Now that long, boring ass run is over with I still have time for a quick functional strength/core session before teaching my Masters spin class, so what better way to follow up a proper Nick Cave “Gloomfest” than with the ‘Junkyard‘ album by The Birthday Party.
First of all, let’s acknowledge how amazing this album cover is.
The Birthday Party (originally known as The Boys Next Door) were an Australian post-punk band, active from 1978 to 1983. Despite limited commercial success, The Party’s influence has been far-reaching, and they have been called “one of the darkest and most challenging post-punk groups to emerge in the early ’80s”.
Perfect for the spooky season, right?
The group’s “bleak and noisy soundscapes,” which drew irreverently on blues, free jazz, and rockabilly, provided the setting for vocalist Nick Cave’s disturbing tales of violence and perversion.
This, the Party’s second and, unfortunately, final full studio album (1982), not to mention the the final release with the five-person lineup is essentially a scuzzy masterpiece; art/psych/blues/punk fusion taken to at times outrageous heights.
Right from its start, nobody held back on anything, Cave’s now-demonic vocals in full roar while the rest of the players revamped rhythm & blues and funk into a blood-soaked cabaret exorcism. Nearly every tune is a Party classic one way or another, from the opening slow, sexy grind of ‘She’s Hit‘, Cave’s freaked tale of death and destruction matched by clattering percussion and a perversely crisp guitar from Howard, to the ending title track’s crawl toward a last gruesome ending.
Tips of the hat to literary influences surface at points, notably ‘Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow)‘, though the protagonist isn’t so much the indecisive tragic figure of Shakespeare as a Romeo-quoting criminal on the loose. The ultimate Party song sits smack dab at the center – ‘Big-Jesus-Trash-Can‘, a hilarious and blasphemous blues/jazz show tune with some great brass from Mick Harvey to top it all off. Guest performers crop up at points; future “Bad Seed” Barry Adamson plays bass on ‘Kiss Me Black‘, while Anita Lane contributes two sets of lyrics if not her direct vocals.
While the album might not be the kind of thing i’m going to listen to regularly, it was certainly appropriate today given the Tempest-like weather outside, not to mention the demonic nature of the season.