Boston Rock - April 27, 1983

The Birthday Party Go Bump In The Night
Channel Club Boston - March 24, 1983

My jaw dropped. The band had just finished its first song of the evening. For five short minutes, four sinister figures shrieked, banged, bumped and pounded a frightening, churning, junky funk that made the skin crawl. This stuff could ward off demons. . .

Pow!. . . Welcome to the Birthday Party.

The Birthday Party are a scary crop of characters, but not your comic-styled Cramps or Misfits types. They are serious, maybe too serious, in the way that Joy Division were uncomfortably convincing.

Vocalist Nick Cave, a contemporary Jim Morrison, cuts a charismatic pose whether he's staring blankly into the audience or thrusting his body into sexual spasms. Rowland S. Howard, meanwhile attacks and rips at his guitar, like a vulture tearing at it's prey, spitting noise and feedback throughout each song.

Bassist Tracy Pew is the only member who looks out of place. Dressed like an urban cowboy (macho chic) with tattoos and mustache, he provides the driving sex beat beneath the Birthday Party's music. As the chaos develops, Tracy grinds and rotates his crotch deeper into his bass. It's completely obscene but, within the overall context, perversely right.

Drummer Mick Harvey (formerly their second guitarist) pounds out a variety of rhythms unfamiliar in conventional rock'n'roll. Together the band creates a disturbing, sexual voodoo music for urban society. Uniformly dark, violent and jarring, it is liberally splattered with tributes to Captain Beefheart and the Doors. If there should be an question, this is not your typical pop group. During on of many equipment malfunctions, Nick snarled, "We're not here to be entertaining."

No doubt about it, this is intense stuff. Unfortunately, the Birthday Party are less successful transferring this intensity to vinyl. While they played several songs from their most recent studio album, Junkyard, only the "Release the Bats" single satisfactorally captures the effect they create live. But let's give credit where its due: The Birthday Party are absolutely mesmerizing live, and easily give the best performance I've witnessed this year. Not bad for four chaps from Australia.

Beware of noises from down under . . .


- Mr. B