Record Mirror - 1982
The Birthday Party - Zig Zag Club, London
Strip away the deceit, forget about the 'Stones' at Wembley, consign 'Combat Rock' to the dumper, forget about rock'n'roll.
In short 'rock', it's bloated 25 year history and all those who sail in her, is declared totally irrelevant.
Take The Birthday Party.
What a mess, such excess; better put them down they'll make your hands dirty.
I'm not saying The Birthday Party completely subvert rock traditions; for at their heart is a minimalist dynamic, familiar to punk rock when it had edge, and the scuzziest late Sixties New York rock. Yet the Birthday Party don't steal, they simply stretch and savage reference points and remembered moments, until their 'rock' is mutant, until their appetite is devoured.
Driven by mayhem and privitism, Birthday Party music takes the listener deeper and deeper into a world where the the very surface of 'rock' music is cut and bruised. Guitars moan and screech, vocals scratch, and catch a pained venom. If the guitar is a scalpel, then the drum is some kind of vicious hammer, unsubtle, unloving, but effective.
Surrounding this cut and fury, is a bass that throbs and moves with a wicked sexuality, and a leather troused bass player who bumps and grinds with comic gay-bar overkill.
If the Birthday Party strive to pull rock'n'roll apart at the seams, and it needs to be done, then the result is not always very comfortable. Expect to be disturbed!
For this writer, great music needs a sense of soul, light and optimism that the Birthday Party are simply unable to offer.
Birthday Party's music is rooted in the dark, scabrous underside of urban rock, an ugly neurotic world to be sure - but one which great music can manage to expose and uplift. The rant and glory of the Birthday Party, wallows in this darkness, fails to illuminate, and ultimately accepts defeat.
The Birthday Party shook me up, turned me over - but they didn't win my heart. Rock'n'roll is set up for the kill, but when it dies I want a celebration not a funeral.
Birthday Party? That's an ironic name, eh? Are you beginning to understand what I mean?
- Jim Reid