This is music of frightening intensity made by desperate, heroin- and alcohol-sodden young men intent on exploring the limits of experience, even if it kills them. It’s a sonic harbinger of doom at the dawn of the Reagan/Thatcher era, which forever changed the face of the Western World. Here is the blackest of black romanticism, with no shortage of black humour sprinkled in. At their best when unleashing a musical firestorm in front of an unruly audience, the Birthday Party followed up on the original premise of punk.
They escalated their confrontational fury while deconstructing the trad-rock structures that supposed “anti-rock”bands such as the Sex Pistols, with their slavish recycling of Chuck Berry and Johnny Thunders’ riffs, never quite got around to – for starters, think Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica crossed with Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz and then add The Stooges’ Funhouse, the title track of which appears here. At the centre of the maelstrom, of course, is singer/ songwriter Nick Cave, a smacked-out, exploding Cimmerian scarecrow who invented the spaghetti-Goth look single-handedly and whose aura of danger – which often manifested itself in violent confrontations with audience members – sent essentially harmless Johnny Rotten types running for cover.