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The Hee Haw CD is a release by the Australian post-punk band The Birthday Party. The CD was released in 1998 by 4AD records.
Despite being labelled as The Birthday Party 5 of the tracks are taken from an EP of the same name that was released on 1979 on Missing Link Records. At this stage in their career the band were called The Boys Next Door not The Birthday Party and the name change didn't come about until they emigrated from Australia to the UK in 1980.
Despite being a compilation of both The Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party songs the line up remained the same on all of the recordings.
Nick Cave - Vocals
Rowland S Howard - Guitars, Vocals
Mick Harvey - Guitars, drums, keyboards
Tracey Pew - Bass guitar
Phil Calvert - Drums
There are 13 tracks on the CD. Five songs have been taken from the original 1979 Hee haw EP, five songs from the bands first two 7" EP's and the final three songs from the bands Australian LP aptly named 'The Birthday Party' (Prayers on Fire is considered to be the bands UK debut LP).
The tracks have been remastered for the CD release and all sound an improvement when compared to their vinyl counterparts.
The songs are -
Mr Clarinet -
The bands debut 7" that was released in 1980 is a bouncy little number with a catchy distorted keyboard riff. Nick wails on this rather than his legendary growl. The music is akin to a mutilated reggae beat but still has the hallmarks of Rowland's feedback guitar signature stamped all over it.
Happy Birthday -
This was originally released as the B-Side of the Mr Clarinet single. It is a far more disjointed song to the albums opener and staggers along in a very strange rhythm. Once again the driver of this song is Rowland S Howard's slashes of crackling guitar and Nick's lupine howl like a cat on heat!
Hats on wrong -
Taken from the bands Australian debut album this song meshes the more commercial elements of The Boys Next Door with the emerging apocalyptic sound of the Birthday Party to good effect. The song builds from a clear and crunchy bass into outbreaks of musical chaos with saxophones and guitars wailing chaotically.
Guilt Parade -
The second track to be taken from the bands Australian debut LP. This song was a favourite amongst fans of the Boys Next Door and has all the quirky charm that made them so popular. A catchy guitar riff is the main hook of the quirky pop song. The synthesizers buzz in eighties style and lots of harmonic background vocals make this an almost commercial sound.
The Friend Catcher -
This was the bands second seven inch single from 1980. These songs cemented the migration from pop band to eclectic art entourage. Despite being an old Boys Next Door song the song has been slowed right down to a more macabre and chilling masterpiece. This song demands to be played loud with lots of bass on your hi-fi. The bass groove is deep and powerful whilst the guitars of Howard and Harvey are separated in each stereo speaker and immerses you in their cacophony. Nicks vocals are deep but restrained, lots of shouts of 'Hee Haw' too!
Waving my arms -
Originally released as the b-side of the Friend Catcher single this is another mangled post punk pop song. The groove is once again awkward and starts and stops in a frenetic fashion. Contrasting this odd beat is the poppy chorus that feature an unusual harmony of Cave and Howard's vocals that complement each other perfectly.
The song, which is a cover of Gene Vincent's rockabilly song, is given a ferocious reworking. The drums sound like a military band, the bass is lost in the mix whereas the guitars are shrill and cutting. Nicks voice is beginning to show signs of its development into its familiar rock bawl as the whole song spits musical fire from your speakers.
Riddle House -
The third track to be taken from the bands Australian debut LP. In the same vein and style as the other three songs taken from this album we have a familiar sound where Nick sings over a skipping awkward tune which has guitars and saxophones going astray.
A Catholic Skin -
This is the first track to be taken from the original 1979 Hee Haw record. Despite being a song written by The Boys Next Door you could see the shells of their quirky synthesizer pop being slowly discarded and an altogether odder sound developing. Nicks vocals on this song and the others from the EP are really eccentric. In fact on this song there is such a vocal range that really adds to the strangeness of the sound.
The Red Clock -
The second track from the original Hee Haw EP and guitarist Rowland sings this song. Rowland's vocals are quite enduring and he has a low but infectious vocal tone that is in total contrast to Cave's vocal style. The song clicks along, in a clock style beat with the trademark guitar sounds aplenty. What make this track sound really strange are the dual harmonic saxophones that are purposely slightly off key and add a creepy ambience to the music.
Faint Heart -
The third track taken from the Hee Haw Ep is a demented pop punk song that has a really catchy guitar riff. That said the guitar sounds more like a distorted violin than an actual guitar. The bass guitar plunks and funks throughout the track whilst Cave paves a crazed vocal throughout the odd twists and turns of the tune. The song ultimately falls into chaos before the scratchy guitar riff returns and the songs starts once more.
Death by Drowning -
The fourth song from Hee Haw and at a breakneck speed the track starts with a flurry of guitar notes. They stop and the song descends into a woeful and sad sounding song. Nick delivers a clear sung vocal whilst once again out of key Saxophones wail and scream over the top of the song.
The Hair Shirt -
The closing track to this CD and the original EP is probably the closest that the band have ever come to writing a disco song. The bass line is really funky and has late seventies feel to it (though the track was recorded in 1979 so should be expected!).
Once again the possibility of commercial acceptance is totally destroyed by the sonic racket of guitar howling feedback and notes. Nicks vocals once more are close to erupting from pop singer to demon monger!
The original Hee Haw Ep and Australian debut LP's were not widely available in the UK and the CD release was welcomed amongst fans of the band. In my opinion the timing was all wrong and these songs really needed to be heard whilst the band were still functional.
Prayers on Fire was the first release by the band in the UK and was a lyrically and musically darker entity whereas on this album you can hear the bands sound changing from the naïve and innocent pop of The Boys Next Door to the ferocity of The Birthday Party.
Overall it's not as "in your face" as latter day Birthday Party and is a good introduction to the band for the more fragile listener!
Price and availability
The CD was available for £7.48 from www.amazon.co.uk at date of writing (20th September 2008) although it is worth noting that the track listing they are currently displaying is incorrect.
Copyright M Jones (Otalgia) 20th September 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Release The Bats
2 Blast Off
3 Friend Catcher
4 Mr Clarinet
5 Happy Birthday