“The head-shrinker is a quack
Anyone ‘anyone who’d wear their hair like that’
The vinyl is so cool but the conversation’s cruel
Hold my head romeo it’s in a rodeo.”
Music is a way of escaping. Music is a way of functioning. Music is a way of delving into something people try take you from, or they try convince you it’s a bad idea. You try to figure yourself out when no one is around because sometimes other people crowd your thoughts. You realise what/who you are when something is about to happen. Or when it has happened. Sometimes you need an insane Australian guy screaming in your ear to just a grip on something. The other night I wrote about Prayers On Fire by The Birthday Party. Tonight it is the turn of Junkyard. I should be doing it in order, but any form of order/organisation always leaves me feel uneasy and sick. So, I’m going to the end of The Birthday Party with their last full length record. The one that really nailed down how insane and important their sound was, and always will be.
Before I get into the music, I’ll just mention the artwork briefly. The artwork is equally as crazy and brutal as the songs. The artwork resembles someone, in my eyes, being possessed by something greater than them. Something that grabs them and takes them where nobody else ever has. Where no one else had dared to go. For me it makes Junkyard as one of those records you listen to by going on the artwork if you weren’t already familiar with the band. A sinister but brilliant cover, just like the record.
Junkyard was released around 34 years ago and when I listen to it, it sounds like something that has never come from a time. Maybe a band now could make something like this, I’m not sure but I know that no other band has ever made anything like this. Sure many, so many have given it a go but nobody comes close to The Birthday Party do they. The songs are wild and most would write it off as unlistenable.
To write this record off in such a way is crazy. But that’s just because Junkyard appeals to the side of my brain that probably only one person gets. Junkyard is a blistering collection of rowdy songs who aren’t for those wanting sunshine, rainbows and the like. It’s for those who want something that leaves them feeling unsettled, unsure and on the edge of something that is destined to possess them. Is listening to The Birthday Party like falling in love? In a way, yes. The kind that isn’t typical. The kind that no one but you and the other person can only understand. Unless it is one sided, then you should probably play the Mutiny EP instead. Don’t get into this one, save yourself! Junkyard is one of the most ferocious and ruthless records I have ever heard. I love how it is a chaotic whirlwind, like a hurricane hitting the soul. Something takes you over when you listen to this record, and it is one that you play alone. Over and over.
Songs like She’s Hit and Release The Bats(bonus track on the record) unleash this almost sexual tension within the record, the kind of tormenting lust that takes over your brain and the rest of your body. You give in to every ugly and every beautiful feeling. Everything you feel becomes heightened when you listen to this record, and those two songs especially increase any tension that burns inside the listener. It’s pleasantly intense, but aren’t all the best things in life exactly like that?!
Several Sins is possibly my favourite on the record, and obviously I (typically) love Release The Bats. Several Sins is a real filthy and Bluesy song that sits under 3 minutes. It’s a record that oozes chaos and on Several Sins you think it might be one of the calmer songs on the record, but the hook is so sinister you can’t help but think Nick and the band are towering over you and tell you exactly how they are going to fuck you up. The Birthday Party never felt like just a band, they always gave off something more and that really comes through on Junkyard. Several Sins sounds like it could have influenced so many Tarantino films. It is so dark, pure evil and highly enticing. You can’t but let this song suck you in to whatever underworld The Birthday Party lure you into, with your eyes shut. Anticipating something truly but wonderfully fucked up. Put my name down now.
With its incredibly intense atmosphere and perfectly passionate songs, Junkyard quite possibly defined what The Birthday Party were about. An unsettling listen with words that can shoot through the coldest of hearts. The lyrics and the music are both as menacing as each other. It leaved you wanting to pick up a pen and created your own tormenting lust/love story. I won’t say it has evil tones flowing through it, far from it. It just has eerie and dark imagery that awakens the soul in the best way possible. Play it late at night and let your mind wander off. It might not do the same if you listen to it on the way to work, although you could disturb fellow commuters/drown them out with Nick’s extremely powerful screams and yelps.
From start to finish Junkyard is something to shake up your bones, mess with your mind and leave you weeping in the foetal position on the floor because you know nothing at all is going to make you feel like this. It is evident that Junkyard is a stroke of madman genius. Junkyard will make you carry something deeply intense within you and it will also make you feel like you’re teetering with insanity. Sure it is an uneasy listen for some, but hand on heart, this is one of the most influential and greatest records of all time. Could anyone get away with creating something like this now? Probably not. It’s one of those rare records that capture something that we won’t ever see again.