Mutiny/The Bad Seed
compiles the last recordings of menacing Australian post-punks The Birthday Party. There’s not a lot of rationality in choosing to write about this collection, really. It’s not like I’ve been listening to it a lot lately. But I put it on today after sifting through some CDs and it felt like something that would be fun to write about. So here we are.
Most people likely recognize The Birthday Party as singer/song writer Nick Cave’s early 80's vehicle. And that’s fairly accurate. There’s certainly more that could be said. It’s just that Cave’s presence, the visceral lyricism and dominating vocal performances, often take center stage. But the contributions of guitarist Rowland S. Howard ought to demand just as much respect. Howard, Cave and Mick Harvey all have writing credits on this collection but by this time, it’s clear that Howard is becoming the odd man out. Still, Howard’s often virulent turbulence utterly rattles, creating exceptionally demonic waves of sound for Cave to writhe and squeal to. Stack on Harvey’s thunderous clubbing and you’ve got the stuff of dreams. Or maybe nightmares.
Ha, that was fuc
And in that flavor of cheese, I guess people also recognize The Birthday Party for their contributions to Goth sub-culture. I mean, it’s bleak material, all you need to do is listen to “Deep in the Woods,” a very disconsolate piece boasting verses like, “Worms make their cruel design/Saying D-I-E into her skin/Saying dead into belly and death into shoulder/Well last night she kissed me but than death was upon her,” and it’s easy to see the relation. But Cave never stereotypes himself, a large reason why he’s had such an enduring career.
The bursting guitars and simplistic bass line of “Fears of Gun” supplement that versatility wonderfully. Cave channels the spirit of Iggy Pop for this tune, lyrics bleeding from his gut like a ruptured ulcer. “Fears of Gun” and “Deep in the Woods” are both from The Bad Seed EP
, which exists as the first half of this collection. The Mutiny EP
sessions, recorded some six or seven months later, fill out the last six tracks. Quality of material between both these EPs is roughly equal, although the Mutiny
tracks (bolstered by the fact that “Six Strings That Drew Blood” and “Pleasure Avalanche” are otherwise unreleased Birthday Party recordings) are arguably the reason to check this out.
My favorite tunes on the compilation and, thusly, the reasons I would give to check out this album, sandwich the other songs. “Sonny’s Burning” (also listed as “Sunny’s Burning” in the liner notes) is the opener. Cave asks right off the bat, “Hands up! Who wants to die!?!?” as he and his comrades peel off into the sun to char themselves to a crisp. Harvey’s trotting beat accents Howard’s sweet little riff, which cavorts with Tracy Pew’s bass licks, the lot of ‘em devolving into a cacophonous barrage for Nick’s chorus screams of “Flame on!” The whole time, he’s hooting, moaning and emoting like a true to earth freak. It’s kind of like Satan cutting soul music.
Meanwhile in Heaven, Cave is inciting riots. The closer, “Mutiny in Heaven,” I just love this thing. Blixa Bargeld guests here, a repetitive sort of sonic jam, like “Sister Ray” made by a English-lit, heroin freak. Oh, wait. Well, you know what I mean. Anyways, the crux of the tune is Harvey’s driving cro-Magnon thump and, as always, Cave’s psychotic prose. A sample for your pleasure:
I was born...
And Lord shakin', even then was dumped into some icy font,
Like some great stinky unclean!
From slum-chuch to slum-church, ah spilt my heart
To some fat cunt behind a screen...
Evil poppin’ eye pressed up to the opening
He'd slide shut the lil' perforated hatch...
At night my body blushed to the whistle of the birch
With a lil' practice I soon learnt to use it on myself
Punishment?! Reward!! Punishment?!
Well, I tied on... perched on mah bed ah was...
Stickin' a needle in my arm...
And so on. I suppose a certain percentage of the song’s intrigue is the shock value, but who cares? Fun listen. Most of the stuff on this CD is.
The only really weak track is the aforementioned “Deep in the Woods.” It’s especially lackluster in its dirge-like qualities compared to the other sepulchral, doom-ridden track, “Jennifer’s Veil.” “Jennifer” is just better in every facet. Cave’s narrative is more developed here, the tune, more coherent. Perhaps “Deep in the Woods” is just too minimal. By the time it develops into something, it’s too late, although admittedly, it does finish quite strong.
Mutiny/The Bad Seed
features a very stripped down Birthday Party, at least in comparison to other works. The skronky, almost funky, horns of past albums are completely gone, and there’s not even a trace of Harvey’s organ. This could be attributed to the limited role of Howard, but I don’t really know these things. The energy of earlier stuff is definitely intact, though. Loud, abrasive and peeling at the corners, a down-under shot at No-Wave. What else is there to say? Nothing really.
The Birthday Party is:
Nick Cave (Vocals)
Tracy Pew (Bass)
Rowland S. Howard (Guitar)
Mick Harvey (Drums; Guitar)
Blixa Bargeld (Guitar; Mutiny in Heaven)