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It’s an awesome kind of sickness

”Prayers On Fire” is the first LP by The Birthday Party and to this day it remains one of the most disturbing pieces of music ever made. Beginning with tribal drumming and chanting, complete with a menacing bass-line on the opener “Zoo-Music Girl” and all the way to the sickeningly distorted “parody” of a blues song “Kathy’s Kisses”, the album works like a ride to a morbid party in Hell, happening in a deranged maniac’s mind. The word “sick” is probably the best adjective to describe any track on this record; this sickness is present on every song, taking over the listener in the process.
It’s an awesome kind of sickness.
After a few spins one starts to see some sort of logic in The Birthday Party’s music. The core of it is the rhythm section, which bears the most obvious traces of blues’ influence. Guitars provide disturbing hysterical coating for the songs, little creepy melodies crawling their way into the structure here and there; and sometimes there’s hardly any melody what’s so ever and guitars just make noise, intensifying the insanity. And then, of course, there are the vocals.
It’s a bit weird to think that the ranting madman behind the mic would go on to sing with Kylie Minogue in 1996. Cave’s vocals on this are blissfully crazy and intense and it’s hard not fall in love with his performance. He shrieks, grunts, yelps and screams, seemingly loosing himself in his own world, delivering delusional nightmarish lyrics that only a mind as twisted as his could come up with. There’s hardly any singing on this album: when Nick hits an actual note it seems like an accident. For this kind of music actual singing would seem inappropriate anyway.
The Birthday Party are closer to Joy Division (only more theatrical), the Pop Group (only spookier), or Pere Ubu (only more percussive). Though present on most of the tracks, the moody piano that would dominate much of Cave's solo work is never really prominent here. Instead it's the squiggles of Rowland Howard's guitar dodging the blows of the furious rhythm section that distinguishes The Birthday Party.
Overall, this album is definitely not for everyone, unless you want to torture other people with it, in which case, the more people hear it the merrier. But if you’re keen of dark, menacing music and the perspective of listening to jazz and blues being sodomized and bludgeoned to death sounds good to you, then surely give “Prayers Of Fire” a try.
Oppressive and unrelenting, "Prayers on Fire" is highly recommended for those aspiring to advanced states of dementia. 

Taken from the 1988 CD reissue with two bonus tracks to MP3 @ 320kbps

Track List

  1. Zoo Music Girl
  2. Cry
  3. Capers
  4. Nick The Stripper
  5. Ho-Ho
  6. Figure Of Fun
  7. King Ink
  8. A Dead Song
  9. Yard
  10. Dull Day
  11. Just You And Me
  12. Blundertown
  13. Kathy’s Kisses

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