Juke - June 18, 1983


The Birthday Party played the final date of their career in Melbourne last week ending a great deal of speculation on whether or not, or when, the band would break up.

Confirmation of the split came first from the English rock press, which reported last week that the band had decided to split in favour of the ever popular "solo projects".

A statement from the band, not made available to the Australian press but quoted in Britain said: "In view of the events of this year, it has become obvious that new challenges are needed to sustain our creative vitality."

"Rather than continue regardless of our better judgement (ie. for money or through lack of daring) and diminishing the impact of our work, it has been decided to end The Birthday Party."

"Individual plans are not definite at this time but we hope this decision will prove as productive as it's intent."

The band has just completed it's second return tour to this country since departing for England in 1980.

The press and punters of that country were to give the Birthday Party credit far closer to their due, and it was from Britain that the band established its international reputation and following.

The band formed in Melbourne in the late seventies as The Boys Next Door, playing a part in an intense period of musical creation in that city.

The release of some singles, the excellent E.P. Hee Haw and album Door Door established The Boys Next Door as one of the leading lights of the Australian underground, a position they consolidated with the completion of the album The Birthday Party, a release that was coupled to the name change.

Like many others before and after, The Birthday Party outgrew the opportunities of their native land and left for England in 1980 to broaden horizons and perhaps find ears more attuned to the band's product.

The first trip was well received in many quarters notably the BBC's John Peel and record company 4AD, but on most levels it was less than a success.

The band returned to Australia for an enthusiastically received tour and then back to England, this time being hailed as many things, among them "a suppository in the anus of apathy".

In they years to follow the band was to establish a reputation for demonic intensity. "Their audiences swelled and live performances became ferocious rituals of frenzy and confrontation." They were superb, a mixture of paranoia, demented self parody and neurotic, inebriated passion."

They English press found in The Birthday Party a band worthy of their favorite adjectives and there was more coverage than you could poke a stick at.

"A dark jungle of animal eroticism doubling as a statement of intent", "a thunderous denial of western cultural conditioning", "a combustible dervish dance", the band's UK reputation grew apace.

The band reached it's "demonic" peak about the time the single 'Release The Bats' saw daylight and that was followed by the live mini LP, Drunk On The Pope's Blood, studio album Junkyard and another return trip to Australia.

The last year has been one of changes for the band.

First off the rank was drummer Phil Calvert who left his partners to join the Psychedelic Furs. Guitarist Mick Harvey took over on drums but left the band on the eve of their recent Australian tour.

This was pretty much the final nail in the Birthday Party coffin and gave some solid foundation to the split rumors that had circulated for some months before Harvey's departure.

The Birthday Party have done much for the reputation of Australian fringe music and have probably opened as many doors and sparked as much interest as a dozen Men At Works.

Also in the break up stakes are Britain's Undertones.

The band has issued few details yet and have simply stated that a concert to be played in Dublin on July 17 will be their last.

The Undertones are one of the handful of surviving '76 bands, though these days they have become something like the Dave Clark Five of Punk.

The news of the break up came as a surprise to all quarters, even to their record company EMI, who had no comment or concrete information on the move.

- Jonathon Green