On The Street - December 1983
Mutiny - from rags right through to stitches...
Pathetic, desolate, tragically hopeless and destined to become yet another Birthday Party classic.
Jennifer's Veil, which opens Mutiny! generates its emotional force from the pain and pathos surrounding loss. Frankie has come back to find his Jennifers face behind a veil-is she dead, or has she become totally withdrawn? since 'they came and burnt the old place down?'. The exact details are never specified and don't matter much. The exploration of the feeling is all that's important.
Exquisitely masochistic and agonisingly poignant, Jennifer's Veil is undercut by a pitch black humour and an absurd morbidity that's almost funny in a cracked and hysterical way. Even when the characters act, things just seem to get worse. Nobody sings the blues like Nick Cave, and no-one stretches out those silver-like shards of depression like Rowland S. Howard... Ironically, the song most akin to those on The Bad Sed-Swampland-is the song that to me anyway-appealed the least-a little ditty about being tracked down by bounty hunters for a crime we can only speculate over.
'Lucy, ya made a sinner out of me. now ah'm burnin' like a saint'.
Mutiny In Heaven, the other outstanding track on the EP is a gorgeously murderous riot of blasphemy and violent imagery on a characteristically grandiose scale-which combines the rollicking fervour of black gospel singing with the zombiesque feverishness of voodoo rhythms. Identifying with Lucifer-as usual-Cave is the choirboy gone bad, a junkie in a catholic paradise.
'If this is heaven , ah'm bailing out', he gurgles impulsively. 'Sticking a needle in mah arm' constitutes his fall from grace. Guilt and Confession. Punishment and Reward are left behind as 'fuckin' wings burst out moh back' and the fallen angel plummets, from Utopia into Utopiate. What's amusing about The Birthday Party is the way they often set out to deliberately epitomise all the fears parents traditionally have about their children being led astray-inevitably finishing up in a middle class nightmare of squalidness, decayed morality and drug addiction. And just about every one of those fears is realised on Mutiny In Heaven. Fred Nile would just die if he heard this.
The final track on Mutiny! is Say a Spell. Penned by Rowland Howard, it's another one of those Nancy Sinatra-gone-dreadfully-wrong type songs. 'I would die to be you. and I would kill to be good.'
If you liked the Some Velvet Morning 12" and Seven Sins off Junkyard, you'll like this.
One of the things I've always admired about The Birthday Party's work is the progression evident from one record to the next. And whilst Mutiny! isn't as consistently poignant as The Bad Seed EP, it is still a magnificent record, that easily avoids the classic pitfalls that have claimed many a lesser band-either covering old ground or the most pernicious and ignoble of all failures-mediocrity.
Happily however, this is not quite the end of the Party. If you're very lucky, you may one day get to view a really quite excellent clip of the Birthday Party doing Deep In The Woods-5 minutes 43 seconds of sheer hell (the agony IS the ecstasy) put together by film maker Glen Auchinachie during the last Birthday Party tour, filmed live at the Trade Union Club. Flame On!!!
- Robert L. Miller