Melody Maker - July 10, 1982
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY - Junkyard (4AD)
Three months ago, I'd have given you this: 'Junkyard' is brilliant; an essential, abrasive album, something to sort out once and for all the malcontents from the chartmesmerised morons.
Now I'm not so sure.
Living with The Birthday Party is much like living with pain -you numb to the hurt with the passing of time. Not to say Nick Cave's grotesque parody of a rock'n'roll messiah doesn't stink as bad as it always did, it's just that a skeletal production and the most cruelly callous of lyrics liberally battered by primeval grunts can't hope to emulate the theatre of the brutal live confrontations, can't disguise a formula struggling and strangled at the end of its tether.
Great rock or pop should act as a springboard, a jolt for your adrenalin, a catalyst for your emotions, a trigger for your reflexes to run ruinously apeshit. 'Junkyard' finds The Birthday Party foreclosing on interpretation and demanding attention like the spoiled brats they mercilessly seek to dismember.
'Junkyard' is, without doubt, an improvement on, and extension of, their flawed but furious debut, 'Prayers On Fire', but it also signals the end of a phase, maybe even the end of the band. "Welcome to the car crash/You can't tell the boys from the girls.", can deservedly claim a premium place in this hack's hierarchy of tasteless punter-baiting, but to what end and at what cost?
'Prayers' was a genuine shock, a flaunting arrogance, a flick-knife slash and a boot in the groin of last year's short-lived trends. 'Junkyard' short-lived trends. 'Junkyard' finds the Party comfortably assimilated into the scene as welcomed, accomplished shock-rockers; a species to be studied but no longer a startling experience.
We've outlived their aggressively onedimensional examination of the atrocious potential of language and sound; we've moved on while they flounder in a seemingly inescapable rut, merely shifting the emphasis from the soggy bass mix of 'Prayers' to the arid guitar scratch of 'Junkyard'.
Don't get me wrong: lyrically, musically, monotonously, magnificently, 'Junkyard' spews all over anything you'll have heard all year. A harrowing pantomime of the preposterous power of pop, it maliciously delights in exposing self-inflicted wounds and fertilising them with gangrenous germs. A skirmish with 'Big Jesus Trashcan' should suitably offend.
But such wanton offence can only command brief attention and recorded revulsion soon subsides to neglect. Uneasy listening is no longer enough. Almost ironically, this party's been fun. Pity now it's over. There'll never be such garbage in Honey's sack again.
- Steve Sutherland