Junkyard by the Birthday Party Review
The Birthday Party’s Junkyard was their second proper album after Prayers on Fire and their first to be recorded after the band relocated to London. To say that it is visceral would be an understatement. The music here is trashy, desperate and insane. Part Captain Beefheart, part Iggy Pop. The albums name and for some reason, even it’s cover is reminiscent of the Stooges Fun House. This is not the Nick Cave of the Boatman’s Call or And No More Shall We Part. He screams, grunts, howls and just very occasionally sings his way through 13 tales of filth, horror and depravity.
The band’s relocation to London had exaggerated their already squalid lifestyles; a heady mix of drink, drugs and high literature. They found the music scene in post-punk London contemptible and they positioned themselves against the new wave of artists hanging on punk’s coattails.
Recording on the the Junkyard album started when the band returned to Melbourne in December 1981 and the chaotic metallic recordings presented here are largely the result of these sessions. However, the band had to finish the album in London after bassist Tracy Pew was jailed for drunk driving and other accumulated offences. Barry Adamson, who was to play bass on the Bad Seeds’ early records filled in for Pew.
The songs on Junkyard are brutal and extreme with a Jazz element running amok in the post-punk Southern Gothic hell. Several tracks stand out among the debris. She’s hit could probably be re-invented as a lounge song, in fact it probably has. There’s an industrial quality to the song here, though. The percussive guitar of Rowland S. Howard punctuating the song and emphasising the hit.
6” Gold Blade is driven along by Tracy Pew’s insidious, growling bass while Nick Cave spins a violent tale in an almost dismissive manner.
The manic and disturbing Dead Joe, complete with it’s sheet metallic guitar bleeds, literally into the almost playful Dim locator which is followed by the gun fight of Hamlet (Pow, Pow Pow). The pace is breathless, the music relentless and without remorse.
Junkyard comes to a close with the title track where the count is equated with a rising pile of garbage. It’s a grim place, this Junkyard. “I am the King. Junkyard King” screams Cave. You’re welcome to it mate, it sounds terrifying.
The imagery in the lyrics is grim and horrifying throughout the album and the messy mix suits the mood perfectly. There are, however, better versions of these songs available in old Peel sessions if you can track them down.
The Birthday Party were just too volatile to last and they only had two EP’s left, released now as The Bad Seed/Mutiny, which for me, slightly eclipse Junkyard as the band’s peak. Still, Junkyard is an early classic from Nick Cave before the Bad Seeds.
Rated Sound gives Junkyard by the Birthday Party a rating of 7/10.
Junkyard (1982) by the Birthday Party Track Listing
1. Blast Off!
2. She’s Hit
3. Dead Joe
4. Dim Locator
5. Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow)
6. Several Sins
8. Kiss Me Black
9. 6″ Gold Blade
10. Kewpie Doll
12. Dead Joe
13. Release the Bats