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Mutiny / The Bad Seed EP - The Birthday Party

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Genre: Indie Rock & Punk - New Wave & Post-punk / Artist: The Birthday Party / Import / Audio CD released 1989 at Shock

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      21.09.2008 19:23
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      A compilation of The Birthday Party's last recordings

      Introduction
      ---------------
      The Mutiny / Bad Seed EP CD is a release by the Australian post-punk band The Birthday Party. The CD was released in 1996 by 4AD records.

      The release combined for the first time the bands final two twelve inch singles The Bad Seed and Mutiny plus added two unreleased songs that were also recorded during the period.

      The band
      ------------
      The band were the slimmed-down Birthday Party and had the noticeable omission of drummer Phil Calvert

      Nick Cave - Vocals
      Rowland S Howard - Guitars, Vocals
      Mick Harvey - Guitars, drums, keyboards
      Tracey Pew - Bass guitar

      Einsturzenden Neubauten's guitarist Blixa Bargeld also adds guitar on the song 'Mutiny in Heaven'. Blixa was later to join Nick in his post Birthday Party band Nick Cave and the bad seeds.

      The songs
      ------------
      There are 10 tracks on the CD; 4 from each twelve inch plus the additional two tracks mentioned earlier.

      The tracks have been remastered for the CD release and all sound an improvement when compared to their vinyl counterparts.

      I've reviewed the songs in the order that they appear on the CD. First up are the four songs that appeared on the penultimate EP "The Bad Seed" -

      Sonny's burning -
      The song starts with the ominous lyric of 'Hands up who wants to die?" and are quickly joined by a military style snare drum pattern. Then the song erupts into a fast and furious cocktail of noise. The song burns like a Molotov cocktail and the final vocal line from Nick of 'Evil heat - baby it consumes me' sums everything up.

      Wildworld -
      In contrast to the opening track this is a much slower and dark track. The slow plodding sound of deep floor toms and grinding bass are interspersed with wails of high guitar notes and feedback. Nicks vocals are quite laid back and sung rather than spat.

      Fears of Gun -
      The star quality of this song is the thrusting riff of the bass guitar. The lyrics mesh murder and alcoholism in a song that builds slowly. It's not until the chorus is reached that the song erupts into rock excess. Everything is so loud that you can hear the volume entrenching the mix and overloading.

      Deep in the woods -
      The song is depressingly slow and once again conjures up imagery of skulduggery, dark places and plot. Nick's lyrics are as expected about death, misery and reflective. Nick sings a tale of turmoil and self loathing - "Love is for fools and all fools are lovers, it's raining on my house but none of the others". Musically the song swings slowly over a reverb drenched guitar riff that is slow yet commands listening.

      The next six tracks cover the bands final record "The Mutiny EP" and also two tracks that were recorded at the same session but not released before -

      Jennifer's Veil -
      This song shows a side to the Birthday Party that was seldom encountered. The song is almost a ballad in its structure. Its sound is very similar to Nick Cave's latter solo work and has a fragile beauty to sound.

      Six Strings -
      This track had never been released before although the band did perform it live a few times. The track is almost a rockabilly song with a great Gene Vincent style lead riff as its main feature. The chorus threatens to explode but doesn't quite hit the mark. The song was a much stronger song live and this studio version didn't really do it any justice which is maybe the possible reason for it's exclusion from the original vinyl release. For the train spotters out there this song was released by Nick in his solo career as a B-Side in a much slower blues style form.

      Say a spell -
      This song has a slow deep swing to it. The guitar is deep in reverb and really loud in the mix. Nick sings a love song in that would have been bettered with a full big band accompaniment; yes it's that kind of song. Nick sings for character reformation - "I would kill to be good"; ironic!

      Swampland -
      A musical quagmire that is not dissimilar to the CD's closer Mutiny in Heaven.
      It tells the tale of bloody booted executioners hunting down a wanted man. Musically it punches you to the floor and then kicks you in the head for good measure. The closing scream of "Swampland" at the end by Nick is so long and tortured that it resembles a Concorde plane flying an inch above your ears. My description may sound a little exaggerated but if you Google the words "Swampland" and "Birthday Party" and you'll find some excellent footage of Nick Cave recording this track sans backing music!


      Pleasure Avalanche -
      The second song that was not originally released on vinyl is a song of two parts. It starts as a stuttering slow grind jazz song with Nick sounding like a 1000 cigarettes a day smoker. The vocals are so painfully screamed and cackled that you can visualise Nick's tonsils ripping in resignation. Prior to the release of this CD the only other studio recording of this song was from a John Peel Session for BBC Radio 1 which in my opinion was a far more exciting performance and also had a tempo change mid song that bursts with energy.

      Mutiny in Heaven -
      The closing song of the CD and also the last track of the bands last EP is quite an appropriate selection. The song which swaggers and lashes in a sea shanty fashion has all the hallmarks that caused the band to implode. Firstly you have the crashing and disjointed drum beats which sound like a bull in a china shop. Then you have the guitar parts that are so high in treble that they cut through your ears like a hot knife in butter. The bass groans and crunches like a ship keeling over and to gel the whole package you have Nick Cave who shouts and screams like a deranged pirate who is steering his ship into doomed waters. God bless the good ship Birthday Party!


      My thoughts
      ----------------
      It was a sad day for me when the Birthday Party split as there weren't any other bands in the same genre or indeed class. It was a strange story as the band's synthesizer pop rock of earlier days had over a period of three years turned into a fury filled vessel which was set on a path to destruction. Admittedly Nick Cave's written and solo work carried on in a similar vein but the heady heights of extremities were never again reached.

      It is obvious after listening to these records that the band had to capitulate as they had climbed to the top of the sonic mountain and there was no path or parachute to hand.

      Having the last two EP's and some extra material on a single CD makes for the ultimate document of the bands demise. It is also worth mentioning that the sound is remastered to perfection and sounds clear and punchy. Well done 4AD records!


      Price and availability
      --------------------------
      The CD was available for £16.49 from www.amazon.co.uk at date of writing (21st September 2008) .


      Copyright M Jones (Otalgia) 20th September 2008

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