Vinyl Double LP £18.99 CAD9005
2LP + CD on 4AD.
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Historic all-boy group The Birthday Party’s only band-approved live album is back on vinyl this week. Yes, here’s ‘Live 81-82’, an album cobbled together from a London date in 1981 and a German date in ‘82 plus a night in Athens where they covered The Stooges’ ‘Fun House’ with JG Thirlwell on sax. That freak-out isn’t until the end, though. You get treated to all sorts of classics on the way - ‘Zoo-Music-Girl’, ‘Nick The Stripper’, ‘Release The Bats’, ‘Big-Jesus-Trash-Can’, ‘Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow)’ - the classics are present here.
The mix is great, too. The bass clanks and rumbles and the drums pound in a tribalistic opiated trance in a way that makes it pretty clear where Sims and Washam got some of their ideas from when forming Scratch Acid in Texas a couple of years later. Meanwhile the young St Nick of Cave hollers and growls with an almost religious misanthropic fervour, all topped off by the late Rowland S Howard’s scratchy, percussive, stop-start guitar mangling.
I don’t need to go on too much about how important this band was, I’m sure. They’re a vital link in any music historian’s collection between bands like The Cramps and Suicide and the more advanced post-punk/post-hardcore groups of the mid-’80s like the aforementioned Scratch Acid and even bands like Big Black and The Melvins. So far ahead of its time that it must’ve sounded like a confusing mess to many at the time, it’s a raw, unhinged spectacle which sounds as raw and immediate now as it ever did. The ‘Raw Power’ recording at the end is full of feedback drones and squawking sax and Cave screaming jaggedly into the microphone in ear-splitting, distorted chaos. Magnificent.
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