Hee Haw

The Birthday Party

(Digital Download - Liberation Music #LMCD0256)

Review by Ned Raggett

The initial tracks on Hee-Haw come from two of their earliest proper Birthday Party singles, "Mr. Clarinet" and "The Friend Catcher." Three other tracks included on the 1980 self-titled American-only compilation, the squealing sax and raunch of "Hats on Wrong," the slightly more straightforward punch and thrash of "Guilt Parade," and "Riddle House," surface as well. All showcase the violent, thrashing energy of the Party of legend perfectly; even the organ on "Mr. Clarinet" sounds like it's being strangled as much as being played. Cave may be in utterly hyperdramatic mode throughout, spitting out barks on "Happy Birthday" and braying out the title call on the slow, brilliant burn of "The Friend Catcher," but the band aren't holding back either; Howard's spindly, aggro guitar work complements Calvert's drum punch nicely, balancing nerves and body slam, while Pew and Harvey flesh out everything else in the same spirit. Things aren't quite on the level of sheer sonic pain of later releases, but with the help of engineer Tony Cohen, who brings out the overall performances well, the fivesome is already well on its curious way. The last five songs come from the original Hee-Haw EP, which was also the final Boys Next Door release. While not quite as frazzled as what the group would soon fully mutate into, the tracks do have a more pushing, discordant air than the earlier Boys tracks, Cave still hesitant at points but starting to let go a bit elsewhere. "Faint Heart" has a great breakdown into random vocal mumblings and instrumental nuttiness, especially on piano, while "The Hair Shirt" especially is already the Birthday Party in anything but name.

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