The Birthday Party – Junkyard (1982): Review

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Produced by Richard Mazda, Tony Cohen and Nick Launay
Label – Missing Link/4 AD

By 1982, Nick Cave’s Birthday Party were a band at the point of implosion. Drink, drugs, and personnel tensions drove a stake into the heart of one of rock music’s most uncompromising acts. Their inevitable break up the following year would leave “Junkyard” as the final original collection before Cave re-located to Berlin and began recording as a solo artist. In many ways the dislocated, unhinged, and often grotesque sounds created by the band would lead one to believe that there was no alternative to dissolution. Cave admitted later that “in retrospect it was definitely a self-annihilating thing. Once we got onto the basic train of thought of “Junkyard” it was impossible for us to go on forever like The Rolling Stones”. Chaotic sessions, interrupted by the jailing of bass player Tracy Pew for theft and drunk driving would lead to an album full of psychotic menace and wilfully incoherent songs. Many critics cite the album as the rudimentary foundations of the gothic style that would become increasingly popular during the decade, but frankly it’s a mess of tuneless sounds, led by a singer who believes that shocking an audience has a greater value than original musicality.

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The aggravating misogyny and female suffering is clear on the unsavory opener “She’s Hit”, as Cave describes a murder which returns on the equally disturbing “6” Gold Blade” as the protagonist plants a knife into the head of the unfortunate victim. It’s difficult to identify clear melodies, and commentators have often stated that much of the collection sounds as though each member is playing a different song to the others. The suggestion that there’s a loose resemblance to deep south hoodoo imagery is nonsense, as the music is far too ramshackle and trashy to make any motif credible. Indeed, there’s a sense a of tragic comedy as the band limp from jaundiced dirge to senseless punk, and the constant critical acclaim for their supposed originality is ridiculous. Yelping “Pow pow pow” as some poetic gesture to the Bard on “Hamlet” may be original but it doesn’t mean it’s any good. Fortunately, Cave found his muse later in the decade and produced some richly fulfilling music.

“Junkyard” is a bizarre rag-bag of mind numbing noise, flung together with little thought and at this stage in his career Cave was sinking into the quicksand of his own myth. A cripplingly bad album by a vastly overrated band

3/10

1 – She’s Hit (4)
2 – Dead Joe (3)
3 – The Dim Locator (4)
4 – Hamlet (3)
5 – Several Sins (4)
6 – Big Jesus Trash Can (4)
7 – Kiss Me Black (2)
8 – 6″ Gold Blade (2)
9 – Kewpie Doll (3)
10 – Junkyard (4)

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6 responses to “The Birthday Party – Junkyard (1982): Review

    • It’s one of the worst inclusions in the book IMO Geoff. Glad I’ve got it out of the way. Funny thing is, Cave has done a lot of good stuff since.

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