Five 1980s bands who broke up too soon

Bands who left us far too early.
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THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, 1979-1982 (4 albums)

They began as The Boy Next Door in 1979 but soon changed their name to The Birthday Party when they moved from Melbourne to London around 1980. Though often just thought of as the precursor to Nick Cave’s long-standing Bad Seeds, it’s not hard to argue that The Birthday Party was a better band. You’ll find all the obsession with death, religion, suicide, and other painful subject matter for which Cave would become known. But the music is not quite as heavy and ponderous.

Don’t get me wrong – The Birthday Party is heavy enough for any black metal fan to grind out to. But there’s an attention to quirky melody and humor that becomes harder to find in Cave’s more austere work. It may be hard to identify that melody immediately in hypnotic tunes like “Nick the Stripper” (“hideous to the eye”) or “Dead Joe” (“junk sculpture turning back to junk.”) But it’s there.

What Cave, along with guitar players Mick Harvey and Rowland Howard were doing for early metal was similar to what Ian Curtis was doing for early punk. When everyone else was going faster and faster, they were the contrarians who dared to slow the music down, offering a number of new avenues for punk and metal to explore. By 1983, Cave and Howard found they could no longer work together and so The Birthday Party disbanded.

Harvey and bass player Tracy Pew went with Cave to form the Bad Seeds. Howard, who has to be one of Australia’s most underrated guitarists/songwriters, went on to form These Immortal Souls with his brother and worked extensively with the likes of Lydia Lunch and Thurston Moore. Personally, I prefer both Cave and Howard when they were banging off each other in The Birthday Party to most of their later work.