Sounds - May 7, 1983
The Birthday Party - A Piece Of Cake
The Birthday Party - Electric Ballroom
The incinerator for all the sounds that would burn, had they the chance or the guts: that is the Birthday Party live.
There are those outward signs of something more simple - the guitars slung low, the pale thin players, the dangling cigarettes, the sweated noise and the glazed expressions - but the Birthday Party cannot be, are not some plain, dark, brooding entity.
The Birthday Party are like blood. They make you feel stronger. For seeing past the shaded upon shades of blackness which form their surface, the blurred buried diamond which is their heart becomes sharper. At their peak, in the slow, twisting spiral of 'Wild World' or in the blazing intensity of 'Sonny's Burning', the Birthday Party invoke rgw sinister despair that lay in the very first rock'n'roll, as John Cale did in his reading of 'Heartbreak Hotel'.
The constant pulse of Tracy Pew's bass is the central figure around which the rest gyrates. Shocks of guitar and crashing drums stagger and smash in opposition to each other, complementing Nick Cave's vocals.
The clinging, gnawing desperation of the closing, 'She's Hit' and the classic juxtaposition of of the slowly unwinding 'Deep in the Woods', and the trembling rubble of 'Dead Joe'. The emphasis has moved to the loping gait of the newer material: Tonight the Birthday Party were deliberately walking where once they ran and, accordingly, the view is clearer. Throughout, there is that certain edge that places them apart, an exposed nerve, still searching and oblivious to danger.
In a sense, Cave is the archetypal showman, but to dismiss him as nothing more than mere a figure of excess is to missed the charged power and raw soul of a song like 'Sonny's Burning'. He bursts with an intuitive energy, tearing at songs to drag them to their conclusion, or pares away at their core, chewing and spitting the lyrics, putting every word in perspective.
The Birthday Party have become less frantic and, by approaching from an angle more considered than before, have made their work even more immediate. They've not mellowed with time: Their potential has been fully realized.
- Robin Gibson