The Birthday Party PhotoThe Birthday Party was one of the darkest and most challenging post-punk groups to emerge in the early '80s, creating bleak and noisy soundscapes that provided the perfect setting for vocalist Nick Cave's difficult, disturbing stories of religion, violence, and perversity. Under the direction of Cave and guitarist Rowland S. Howard, the band tore through reams of blues and rockabilly licks, spitting out hellacious feedback and noise at an unrelenting pace. As the band's career progressed, Cave's vision got darker and their songs alternated between dirges to blistering sonic assaults.

Originally, the Australian band was called The Boys Next Door, comprising Cave, Howard, Mick Harvey (guitar, drums, organ, piano), bassist Tracy Pew, and drummer Phill Calvert. After the Door Door album and Hee Haw EP under that name, the band moved to London and switched their name to the deceptively benign Birthday Party. Once they arrived in Britain, the group's demented, knotty post-punk began to gel. They released their first international album Prayers on Fire, in 1981, earning critical praise in the U.K. and U.S. While the band was preparing to record the follow-up, Pew was jailed for drunk driving; former Magazine member Barry Adamson, Harry Howard, and Chris Walsh filled in for the absent Pew on 1982's Junkyard.

After the release of Junkyard, the band fired Calvert and moved to Germany, where they began collaborating with such experimental post-punk acts like Lydia Lunch and Einstürzende Neubauten. Harvey left The Birthday Party in the summer of 1983. The group briefly continued with drummer Des Heffner, but they soon disbanded after a final concert in Melbourne, Australia. Cave had the most successful solo career, recording a series of albums in the '80s and '90s that maintained his status as a popular cult figure; Harvey joined Cave's backing band, The Bad Seeds. Howard joined Crime and the City Solution, which also featured his brother Harry, and Mick Harvey. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide