Few albums sound like their cover art. Junkyard is one such record. The follow-up to debut Prayers on Fire, it’s a riot. The Birthday Party were like a marauding razor gang. Every track is a little electric shock: pure viciousness, matching the Ed Roth/ Dave Christensen artwork.
GrIpped by drugs and demons, the Australian post-punk band seemed to actively court chaos and they got it. Beatings and screaming matches were not uncommon, due in no small part to bassist Tracy Pew, a man with a temper so volatile he wasn’t above jumping into the audience and attacking anyone who wasn’t feeling it. Lead singer Nick Cave (whatever happened to him, eh???) spoke of people pissing on the stage, antagonising the band or just not feeling it in general.
The tracks in Junkyard range from sleazy Burlesque jazz rackets (Big Jesus Trash Can, Kiss Me Black) a la Nick The Stripper from the debut, to the trashy wreckage of Dead Joe and Hamlet (Pow Pow Pow) in which Cave spits the lyrics out like a furball.
It’s brilliant, brutal stuff- almost cartoonish in its extremity. The lyrics wildly vacillate between lust, murder and some kind of perverse religious epiphany- a spiky rejoinder to Cave’s preacher father and his religious upbringing in suburban Australia.
But the real secret weapon, aside from the bloodcurdling whoops, shrieks and growls of Cave at his most depraved, was the serrated knife guitar of spindly hero Rowland S Howard. The wry, dapper guitarist played like an elegant, arch vampire, each riff seemingly dripping fresh blood from a new kill.
People often say Grinderman were a wild ride, but for me, nothing can top the exhilarating noise, force and imagery of Junkyard.