Record Mirror - 1981
The Birthday Party - The Venue, London
Gate crashing wasn't the word for it. After spending most of the year slogging round the sweaty dive circuit, this hirsute bunch of Antipodean reprobates finally joined the establishment by headlining at The Venue.
Not only that, but the place was full, which presumbably goes to show that you can have your cult and crack it. Musically, The Birthday Party are what once might have been descrived as "left field". In other words, they create a most unholy shrieking row.
Vocalist Nick Cave appears to be the main culprit, screaming and haranguing his audience with ubabated zest. His voice owes a lot to both Pere Ubu and Captain Beefheart but since such a sound is in essentially short supply, he can get away with this relatively easily.
The rest of the band follow his example with utmost loyalty, Rowland Howard cutting quite a dash on guitar by adopting a B-movie greaser persona, ciggy hanging out of his mouth and a vacant stare searching out the spotlights.
Most of the material split out of the 'Prayers On Fire' album; 'King Ink' a fine evocation of lunacy and 'Junkyard' and epic chapter of American garageband punk lore. Many of the songs are redolent of Cramps-style psychobilly, the loose, deadpan guitar work and sub-rockabilly rhythms matched by some sinister visuals.
A highpoint of the set was when one of the committed punkers grabbed a mike and took over the vocals for the duration of a song. One would like to confirm that he got it word perfect - if it weren't for the fact that he was completely ad-libbing!
Needless to say, there were no complaints from the group. Simply, they proved that they could have their birthday cake and eat it.
- Mike Nicholls