THE BIRTHDAY PARTY: Junkyard

23 06 2016

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“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.

 

 

 





THE BIRTHDAY PARTY: Prayers On Fire.

21 06 2016

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“The rhythm of her walk, it’s beautiful.
Just let it twist, let it break.
Let it buckle, let it bend.
I want the noise of my zoo music girl.”

 

When you see/hear a band for the first time, it always stays with you. It stays with you because you eventually fall in love with said band. Something or someone places that band in your life, and what happens after holds not much importance. Unless you want to get into it. You know the story about my love for Nick Cave. It started with me gawping at a poster of him in my uncle’s room. I used to go up there and just stare at it, along with one of Lou Reed. Both are huge loves of mine, both are why I care tremendously about lyrics and why I have a fascination with words.

The Birthday Party were one of the first bands I remember hearing that wonderfully terrified me. The way in which Nick would let out these screams, these crazy noises which seemed to tie in perfectly with Rowland’s manic guitar playing fascinated me. This noise blew my tiny mind at a young age, and maybe someone so young shouldn’t have been listening to them but I’m glad I was given the freedom to listen to whatever I wanted. Their first record was a demonic body of work that corrupted my mind and launched me to the less conventional side of being. Something I’m forever thankful for. Most regard love being defined in those sickly rom-com films. Hell no. It’s in a Nick Cave song.

I’ve chosen to write about Prayers On Fire because it’s the record that I first remember hearing, although I have a feeling I may have been turned on to Junkyard first. That’s for a different day because the artwork alone needs talking about. Always. Prayers On Fire is full of smutty, filthy and dangerous songs that make you want to slam someone into a wall, and do whatever you will. The tense yelps from Nick’s mouth send trembling and frequent shivers down your neck. Certain songs have this unkind and menacing feel to them. No song on this record is vulnerable or gentle. Each song leaves you saying “Oh fuck” at the end of it. It is rich in depravity and is easily one of the greatest records of all time. It needs to be played so loud that your neighbour thinks it is you that is being possessed bu something greater than you. Each song sounds like a drunken brawl spilling into the night. Each song has bouts of this glorious insanity that is found in the minds of geniuses.

The songs all read like sordid poetry that could easily be the script to a twisted horror film. The minds of The Birthday Party allow each member to explore something so dark, mysterious and unknown. For me it has ALWAYS been about Rowland S. Howard and his ability to shake up the listener with his machine gun sound. His way of playing guitar has evidently influenced so many bands I love, and the way he played just left you with your jaw on the ground. He managed to instill this fear into the listener with the noise he made, where Nick brought this curiosity with his yelps, screams and uneasy vocals. Phill’s drumming seemed to egg on each band member to go further and to really scare the listener. Mick Harvey was like the secret weapon and Tracy did some serious damage on the bass.

I’ve probably read the lyrics to the songs more than I have listened to them, and time and time again I always come back to Just You And Me. It’s such a warped and delirious, and it reads like such a twisted love poem. It’s like Ted Hughes mixed with Rimbaud with a hint of Poe. In short, it’s wonderfully perfect. In a way it reminds me of a really really extreme version of Lovesong by Ted Hughes. It’s a brutal dedication that most would shun because they favour something more conventional. Oh, how dull.

For me, The Birthday Party embodied everything I love about music. The fearlessness, the noise, the darkness within the songs, the poetry in the words, the way in which they take you somewhere really sinister and twisted- and you lust after it because it sounds SO good and you feel every single word. I’ve paid a lot of attention to this record of late, and I think it does have some incredible songs on it that just need to be heard. Always. I love Cry,  King Ink,  Dull Day. I could go on and on, but the record truly speaks for itself. You can’t dispute how great a record Prayers On Fire is. You just have to play it obnoxiously loud and join in with Nick’s passionate screams.

Let this whirling but assuring fear take over you as you listen to the record. Nobody is going to hold your hand on this one.





ROWLAND S. HOWARD- Teenage Snuff Film.

24 10 2014

 

“I’ve got a lot to say
But I keep my own counsel
I’d like to spit it out
But I won’t speak with my mouth full.”

 

There are some records that freak you out and stay with you forever, no matter what. You can find something new and fall carelessly and blissfully in love with it. But there are times where all you need is that one record that shook you to the core and wrapped itself around your brain and heart with the first listen. This record can be from now or 30 years ago. The feeling it gives you never fades. Never.

Today would have been Rowland S. Howard’s 55th birthday. He’s missed. His delicate way with words, is missed. His ferocious guitar playing, is missed. He is missed.

I decided to write about his first solo record, Teenage Snuff Film as it is one I frequently listen to- at home and at work. When I listen to it, I am anywhere but where my body is. There is release and tension in Teenage Snuff Film which makes it timeless, beautiful and relatable. The record can freak you out due to how open and vulnerable it is. Rowland was one of the finest songwriters ever, he was unafraid to go beyond what you thought a person could feel. This is why I miss him.

Dead Radio is my favourite from Teenage Snuff Film. I adore how he points out why a person is bad for him and how he is equally as bad. I listen to it, and where it takes me is sacred and something that stays, for every right and wrong reason possible. Everything TJAMC’s Psychocandy makes me feel and reminds me of is right in this song. My errors and faults bubble to the surface, but I don’t mind. You can’t press down on everything all of the time. His lustful and passionate words makes you wish you could have guts like that. But, I suppose it is natural to be afraid. He was brave so you didn’t have to be, and that is something that is evident with every listen.

All of Teenage Snuff Films feels like an ode to a person- a partner or an intense friend, it has that unconditional reliability and truth to it. I’m starting to feel less comfortable with writing about new music as I sometimes feel like I’m doing it for the sake of it. Writing about what has come before seems easier to write about, I’m not sure why but I would take something like this over something new and polished any day.

If you judge records by their artwork, then you would take a lot at Teenage Snuff Film and think it was a dark body of work- your judgement wouldn’t be wrong at all. It’s a dark and heavy record. It isn’t for those who want conventional boring love songs about how your heart skips a beat when you hear your desired ones name/voice. That’s what makes it relatable and accessible. It’s a record that, if I was a musician (be grateful I’m not) I would work my behind off to make something as powerful as. Teenage Snuff Film is a gritty and underground listen. Everything about it feels like an unmentioned rite of passage. Rowland guides you through every ugly feeling so you don’t have to carry yourself, alone and twisted. Sure some may pass it off as an uncomfortable listen but to be honest, I don’t want to listen to anything that makes me feel at ease or “safe” I suppose. I want a piece of music to take me out of my mind, body and soul. I want it to freak me out as much as possible- I don’t care what type of music it is, I’m just looking for a certain feeling. If you limit yourself to a certain genre you become really pretentious don’t you? Sure you like what you like, but open your mind and expand your record collection.

If you want cruel, listen to I Burnt Your Clothes. If you want shame, listen to Shut Me Down. If you want warped devotion, then just play the whole record and you’ll hear it creeping in and out of each song. You can take your own meaning from each song and you can feel every single word that falls from Rowland’s mouth. You can sense the trembling and you pick up on certain lines that just stay with you. Certain songs become everything to you. What they mean to you is on the tip of your tongue and rooted deeply inside of you.

With every listen of Teenage Snuff Film I become more and more aware of just how important it is and more importantly, how much of a genius Rowland was. That term is thrown about a lot and I’m guilty of chucking it about. But with Rowland, it is a fully justified and right way to describe him, his music and his words.

It’s alright to have ugly and bleak thoughts/feelings. It’s alright to not want what is expected from you. It’s alright to feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Just don’t let what you feel define you. Teenage Snuff Film is full of things no one else but Rowland could ever teach you. I’m happy to keep on listening.





ROWLAND S HOWARD.

20 07 2014

 

“You wore the smell of success,
I wore the taste of sin.”

 

Everyone has their own idea as to what makes a brilliant songwriter. It can be the way they make you laugh with their words or the way they just “get” you with their words. It can be many reasons, it doesn’t just have to be one. The songwriter that makes you laugh can also be the one who makes you feel tough, weak and alright. All at once or eventually. They get you to where you are going with their words. You hear their words and it just makes you want to write something equally moving. Their words can instill a form of fear and passion inside of you, and you are not someone who is easily moved.

I always talk about Morrissey or Patti or Lou Reed when I mention really great songwriters. I mention them because their music has been around me since I was a baby. I grew up with their words and managed to shake my teen angst off to their tunes. There is one other person who I can firmly place next to them as being one of the greatest songwriters of all time; Rowland S Howard.

His soul shone through with his words. He got to your gut with his words; he made you feel things deeply and brought you into another world with his words. A dark, tormented world with hints of beauty piercing through. If you read the lyrics to Undone you will be thrown into a world of sheer heartbreak, the real pureness and torment of it with a chunk of disdain thrown in. It’s an ultimate “fuck you” with bouts of “how dare you.” If you’ve ever had your heart ripped out, just listen to this song and you’ll forget the one(s) who have wronged you. The secrecy you share with another (friend or lover) is no longer of any worth, and this song just portrays it perfectly. It is one of those songs you wish you had written. His dry and gnarly way with words made Rowland S Howard stand out from so many. The guy was a genius, and nobody else comes close.

Personally, I can’t get my head around songs that are full of positive energy. I like the songs that take me to some place where others daren’t go. I want the weird, I want the tormented, I want the dark lyrics. I want the songs that make me think and take me deep into some underworld that cannot be described. His way with words is addictive, to the point where you try to find someone else who has a similar take on words like Rowland did, but nobody else comes close at all. When I listen to his music or just read his words, I can’t help but wish more would delve into the world he created but at the same time glad nobody else has ever come close. Some may wish to compare Rowland to his buddy and ex-bandmate Nick Cave, but there was something different with Rowland. There was something in his innocent gaze and tormented lyrics that made you feel something unexplainable. Something you’ll spend days trying to figure out. His words at times wonderfully mocked whoever he was writing about in such a romantic way. A way that makes you instantly think of someone you’ve hurt with your words, you probably want their forgiveness but you’d rather fuck around for a bit before you launch an apology. As you taunt them, you taunt yourself. Some would say it is sadistic, but anyone with half a brain cell would know it is just human nature in all its ugly glory.

Aside from his way with words, Rowland was a ferocious guitar player who easily added the “dangerous” style to The Birthday Party. If it was anyone else playing the guitar in that band, they really would not have sounded the same, they would not have been as brutal as they were. He had this charm about him that just made you want to be into everything he did. I’ve watched the live clips of The Birthday Party, and the way he was on stage complimented Nick’s vocals (and occasional wails) perfectly. They had this bond on stage that is found now in the likes of The Kills to Crocodiles. If you’ve seen those bands live, you’ll know exactly what I mean. His look on stage was completed with a cigarette daringly yet casually hanging from his lips.

Rowland S Howard was rare. People like him don’t happen often, and that’s why he will always be missed. Although he only died 5 years ago, the gap is still there. There is nobody as daring and as rebellious as he was. He kept that streak upon him even when The Birthday Party was done. His solo work goes perfectly next to what he did with The Birthday Party, nobody could ever deny just how magnetic and sometimes delicate he was. On stage he moved like a madman, but you go into his lyrics and you’ll pick up on vulnerable aspects that surrounds us humans. He made it easy and alright to be a little weird and to just let go when you found something you loved.

He was brave; not just with his battle with cancer, but with the way he made music. He was someone who should still be around now scaring the life out of everyone with his words, his stage presence and his ability to play the guitar like no other. He should still be here to show us all how it is done, but as always, we have the music. We will always have the music.

The Birthday Party opened my ears up to a different world, I went into a different world with Rowland S Howard. A world to feel part of, a world to escape into. A world to no longer be afraid of. His music reminds us to be brave, be daring and to just do what feels right. He moved on stage like a beast possessed. Possessed with something bigger than the person containing it. The recognition of his genius came late in life, maybe too late. But those that knew, will always know just how amazing he truly was. Not many can leave you in awe like he did, not many ever will.

He unleashed a monster on stage; one that wasn’t feared, but one that was adored and treasured. It still is. His vulnerable gaze on the cover of Pop Crimes is always one of the first things that come to mind when I think about him, then the music plays and it all makes sense.