Record Review: February 1993

Record Review: February 1993


The Birthday Party



Johnny Rotten may have proved that you don’t have to know how to sing to front a band but it was Nick Cave who made vocal anarchy an art, and this compilation is the proof. Hits is a nineteen track, seventy-six minute aural assault that spans the short yet provocative existence of Australia’s The Birthday Party, “the most important band to have ever emerged from Australia and undoubtedly one of the few rock groups worthy of serious consideration during the 1980s.”

The Birthday Party combined the chaos and discordance inherent in the “punk” ethic and added throbbing, sensual bass lines, aggressive horn playing as well as noisy, bluesy guitars. Add to Cave’s deranged vocals and you have a unique voice coding from the punk movement but taking it beyond its roots and away from England. The damage the band inflicted on the musical “scene” is still immeasurable. the wreckage strewn into the nineties. The Birthday Party lasted only a few short years but the bands legacy lives on.

Hits starts at the beginning with early singles “The Friend Catcher” and “Happy Birthday.” The CD continues through the two album showing the bands diversity, being able to play hard and loud or softer, but with elements of noise and feedback building tension under Cave’s crooning as on “King Ink” and “She’s Hit.” Finally, there are songs from the final two EPs—”Deep In The Woods,” “Jennifer’s Veil,” “Sonny’s Burning,” etc.—which show the band moving toward influence by the heavy, dark blues of the American South; music by which to read Faulkner.

Always moving forward and in a constant state of personal and group turmoil, the Birthday Party self demoted, splintering into bands such as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, These Immortal Souls and Crime and the City Solution. But still the Birthday Party remains, and here is the perfect introduction to the band or a brilliant collection for longtime Birthday Party followers. 

Welcome to the car crash!


Ghost Poll

Cutting Losses 

Blue Ox Records

Ghost Poll is a group that started as a solo project by vocalist/ bassist Thomas Sales. Now a year after its recording. Wing Losses has been released. lf you were to ask me why, I’d tell you that I have no clue. This 13-track EP isn’t worth the money it cost to release it.

Ghost Poll has done nothing except make a feeble attempt to release something that would appeal to all. The plain truth is that it doesn’t. Maybe if these guys would stick to one style of music they do well instead of trying to mix metal, modern rock, and cheesy techno-pop, they might actually have something worth listening to. Don’t waste your money on this one!


Down by Law



If you missed the show at Starrz, don’t worry because their latest EP is out. Blue is available on Epitaph and it is definitely worth the money.

It wasn’t surprising that Down by Law, which is comprised of members/ex-members of All, Dog Nasty, Chemical People, Clawhammer and D.Y.S., could put out a classic first album. Blue, the second EP, was also no surprise. These four guys went all the way with emotionally involved melodies that rip into speed and power.

The material on this release has taken these guys from a project by Dave Smalley, vocalist/guitarist, to a full-on band, Down by Law. Blue to me is by far the best album that Dave Smalley has been involved with. Blue shows that the band has got a lot of intense energy, and that the music comes from within the band and what goes on around them. This EP is a keeper. Pick it up. 



Weed Seed

Seed Records

Tumbleweed, a band that hails from Sydney, Australia has released their second EP, Weed Seed. Tumbleweed’s style is comprised of thick layers of guitar noise, mixed with irresistible melodies, finished off with a throbbing bass and tight drums. The lyrics themselves seem a little more dear than the latest grunge style, but still puts the listener somewhere between Mudhoney and the Hollies. Granted these guys seem a little on the hippy side, but at least they are not Spin Doctors wannabes.

All the tracks on the EP are previously unreleased. So go buy it and put it on the stereo cranked. You’ll swear there is a VW bug flying by at 90 MPH. It’s great, so enjoy. 


Voodoo Gearshift

Blue Goat

C/Z Records

These boys relocated to Seattle from Des Moines, lowa after C/R Records signed a contract with them. Comprised of Jim Roth, guitar and vocals, Paul Smells, bass, and Mark Bruggeman, drums, yes, they are a three-piece.

The enclosed 8×10 shows three pleasant-looking long-haired guys dressed in T-shirts, Doc Martens and Chuck Taylor Converse.

Their influences are listed in the press materials as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Stooges, and AC/DC. I’m not sure what the Stooges are doing in with the rest of the million sellers, but it perked up my interest at least enough to give the thing a listen.

Sure enough, Roth has the Ozzy vocal style down perfectly. The lower end of guitar and bass are emphasized for that true dark, hard and heavy sound. Bruggeman gets in some pistol shots on his drum kit that will snap your head back.

Opening with “Surf My Ass,” a melodic thrash song, the inner world of Voodoo Gearshift is immediately apparent. The lyrics, ‘living in your head, wishing you were dead,” are only the beginning. Voodoo Gearshiftwrites introspective songs.

“Cabrini Green” is one of the best cuts on the album, with elements of horror, speed metal, a throbbing bass and explosive guitar.

The last three songs, “Reasons,” “What’s it Uke” and “Your Guess is as Good as Mine,” are filtered with noisy feedback and tape loops. Reasons has plenty of found sounds to keep you amused, including a screeching cat, little kids voices, including one who says, ‘hooked on dope, drugs that is,” and a smoke alarm before the music kicks in. Roth departs from Ozzy to add the effect of singing through a megaphone.

I kind of like “What’s it Like,” with the lyrics, “what does It make you feel inside your own mind,” and “would you tell the truth inside your mind.” Time for some more Inner exploration.

Is there anything to distinguish Voodoo Gearshift from the hundreds like them exploring the same territory all over the United States? I don’t know. Go see them and find out for yourself. The are scheduled to play February 18 at the Bar & Grill


Vigilantes of Love

Killing Floor

Sky Records

If you count the latest Uncle Tupelo, The Jayhawks before they reached a major label, early Violent Femmes, The Waterboys and nonelectric Bob Dylan among your favorites, you should be interested in the Vigilantes of Love 

lts nice to take a break from thrash, grunge, samples, pseudo heavy metal and beats-per-minute, Killing Floor is folk-rock. The album is filled with acoustic guitar, mandolin, sitar, fiddle and harmonica, but don’t expect the pleasantries of Shawn Colvin. Vocalist Bill Mallonee wrote all the songs and he has an attitude.

He doesn’t like the modem world anymore than the long-hair wearing torn jeans and flannel do. In “Sick of it All,” he gets right to the point. When the factories shut down, the health insurance runs out, the savings and loan is bankrupt and the kids are hungry, Mallonee spends a lot of time cleaning his gun and drinking at the local tavern.

“Keep Out The Chill” tells of a Friday night spent in the drunk tank with ‘post traumatic-stress vets. who saw Platoon one time too many.” “Strike While the Iron is Hot” has a “Poor man in my gutter, Mr. three piece at my window.” “Undertow” is about survivalists and the religious right.

Mallonee is not a positive person. His songs are heaped with depression, hopelessness and failure. This is the truth seen every day on downtown Salt Lake City street, despite the low unemployment rate advertised on the evening news.

Pretend everything is fine, life in Utah is beautiful, unlike Georgia, where the Vigilantes of Love live. You don’t need to listen to the lyrics; the music isn’t dark. it’s difficult to play dark. brooding music on a main and acoustic guitar. I enjoy the contrast; dean, uplifting acoustic folk music backing cynical, no-future poetry. For a reality check, the street date is on February 23.

Check out more from the SLUG Archives:
Record Review: November 1992
Record Reviews: December 1992