Melody Maker - February 27, 1982
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY / LYDIA LUNCH
Drunk On The Pope's Blood / The Agony Is The Ecstasy (4AD)
So much mumbo-jumbo's been made of adolescent art, of pop or rock voicing the vainglorious views of each new generation, washing the sins of the fathers (and mothers) from the hands of the kids, that it's long been forgotten that the real truth lies in tantrum.
Most lucrative noise is - and always has been - made by (non) musicians old enough to know better, but never prepared to admit or accept it. It's not a well-aimed kick against growing up and its values, but a blind sulk and shout about already being there. Pop is a toddler's plea for selfish attention, a "me, me, me, me" not an "I told you so". It's mean and it's meaningless. And that's its great beauty.
The Birthday Party, more than most, appreciate the perverse practicality of making a row. They're obnoxious, so much so that they piss people off. Not only the cliched old fuddy-duddies and traditional church wardens, but also the hipsters and boffins who fawn and dote over pop flash and fact.
The Birthday Party are awful. Subversively awful. Awfully great. Awesomely brilliant. 'Drunk On The Pope's Blood' is their second really BAD long-playing record. Recorded live at the Venue, it struggles - in vain - to capture and/or castrate the ranting confrontation of their stage act. "Get involved ... say something!" Nick Cave screams while Beefheart is brutally butchered behind.
Back beyond basics, this is what punk ought to be like - angry and futile with nothing to say and barely the words to express it. The critics turn pop into protest because that gives it a comforting logic, an aim and direction that renders it open to sane comprehension. Sheer bloody-minded pointlessness is too mad and too menacing.
The Birthday Party are violently pointless. That's why they're important. Their "16 minutes of sheer hell" is all ugly feedback. Unlistenably listenable. Love it to death.
Lydia Lunch's unpleasant squawking on the other side is even more potent. I hate it. It neither exasperates nor elevates. It irritates. And that, or course, is exactly the point.
Ah art! Don't you just love it?
- Steve Sutherland