The Birthday Party


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The Party's second and final full studio album, also the final release with the five-person lineup, was perhaps its scuzzy masterpiece, its art/psych/blues/punk fusion taken to at times outrageous heights. Right from its start, nobody held back on anything, Cave's now-demonic vocals in full roar while the rest of the players revamped rhythm & blues and funk into a blood-soaked cabaret exorcism. Nearly every tune is a Party classic one way or another, from the opening slow, sexy grind of "She's Hit," Cave's freaked tale of death and destruction matched by clattering percussion and a perversely crisp guitar from Howard, to the ending title track's crawl toward a last gruesome ending. Tips of the hat to literary influences surface at points, notably "Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow)," though the protagonist isn't so much the indecisive tragic figure of Shakespeare as a Romeo-quoting criminal on the loose. The ultimate Party song sits smack dab at the center -- "Big-Jesus-Trash-Can," a hilarious and blasphemous blues/jazz show tune with some great brass from Harvey to top it all off. Guest performers crop up at points; future Bad Seed Barry Adamson plays bass on "Kiss Me Black," while Anita Lane contributes two sets of lyrics if not her direct vocals. Later CD versions included three extra tracks. "Blast Off" and "Release the Bats" were originally issued as a single; both seethe with rage and fire in spades. The latter is at once powerful and a bit of a tongue-in-cheek goth goof, with Cave serving up lines like "Don't tell me that it doesn't hurt/A hundred fluttering in your skirt." The other bonus, a second version of the album's "Dead Joe" recorded in London, is if anything even more frenetically gone than the original, a car crash sample punctuating the lyrical reference to same all the more.

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