Puncture #26 - February 1993

Hits (4AD)

THESE IMMORTAL SOULS I'm Never Gonna Die Again (Mute)

This extra-large-size compilation of some of the Birthday Party's greatest moments is basically it. Marvel at the opening grizzle of "The Friend Catcher", the dinky organ on "Mr. Clarinet", the thumpa-thumping "Release The Bats", and the self-destructing "Mutiny In Heaven". Hits illustrates what the fuss was about, and why BP were, frustratingly, one of the few bands of the 1980's worth the hype.

Nick Cave and Mick Harvey may now be relative superstars, Tracy Pew in heaven, and Phill Calvert shooting pool in seedy Melbourne bars; meanwhile, Rowland Howard turns out with, irregularly with, among others, These Immortal Souls. The combo features Rowland with brother Harry, fellow Australian-in-exile Genevieve McGuckin, and drumming cavalier Epic Soundtracks.

I'm Never Gonna Die Again catches Rowland in a feisty mood. A carnival calvacade of music, delivered with a sledgehammer; Rowland would be incapable of singing for his supper but that's missing the point. He knows how to have a laugh, even at his own expense: "The story goes that I'd give up gladly/Everybody knows that I fucked up badly/And I'm just hanging on.../That I've only got one song/And it's much too slow and it's much too long..." (from "So The Story Goes").

He's right, you know. It's hard to top writing a song like "Shivers" when you were a slip of seventeen: and this LP certainly doesn't do that. It's not a great work; it's one that will make only hardcore fans coo. He's too morose, too damn peculiar. Yet undoubtedly better for it.

- Matthew Hall