The Birthday Party

Live 1981-82

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Though various live releases had emerged over the course of the band's existence, no full-length capturing of the Party's particular bacchanalia approved by the group had officially emerged until this release. Stitching together tracks from a London date in 1981 and a German show in 1982 (plus a ringer cut from Athens, Greece -- a version of the Stooges' "Funhouse" with Jim Thirwell aka Foetus on sax)), Live threatens at all points to leap from the speakers and throttle innocent bystanders. Clear sound on the first ten songs, all from the London date, makes resistance even harder. Given the sometimes (though intentionally) unclear or unexpected mixing of Party songs in studio, hearing everything via in-your-face stun methods brings out the abilities of the band all the more, especially Pew and his vicious bass work. Songs like "The Dim Locator" and "King Ink" cut all the more closer to the bone as a result. "Nick the Stripper," amazingly, is even more viciously sleazy than the original, which is saying something and a half; Cave sounds like he's summoning his voice from his shoes on up. The German date's sound is only slightly less thorough than the London's, and the performances no less wired. "Big-Jesus-Trash-Can" thrashes around like there's no tomorrow, Pew's bass again shooting through the mix, while "The Friend Catcher" seethes with a creepy, frigid energy. Harvey takes over on drums for the last two German tracks and the "Funhouse" cover, but even down to four people the band still generates more noise and activity than most other acts could hope to achieve. Definite bonus points have to go to Cave for his occasional, softly spoken between-song asides -- "Thank you, I love your haircuts as well."

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