Although the lone Birthday Party alumnus in this dark and bluesy Australian quartet is drummer Phill Calvert, it’s singer Ian “Quinsy” McLean and his obvious Nick Cave fixation that establishes the stylistic bond between Such Sweet Thunder and From Her to Eternity. With Blue Ruin providing the basic guitar-bass-drums framework and dramatic vocals, guests add the sax, harmonica and keyboards coloration that make hard-edged numbers like “She’s Murder,” “Waterhole” and “Love Me When I’m Low” engrossingly atmospheric.
Other than guitarist Mulaim Vela’s organ work, Flame again relies on session players (trombone, strings, sax) for its musical flavoring. Overall, Blue Ruin’s second album takes a better-adjusted path, relegating a chunk of the group’s jagged intensity and bleakness to the downcast — not quite dissolute — and violent lyrics. (Strangely, Flame includes a new rendition of the first album’s vindictive “What a Hell’uva Woman.”)
The powerfully live Strange Things in the Corner was recorded over a pair of May 1988 nights in Melbourne. Other than Willie Dixon’s “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” (given an alternately slow/fast but consistently tuneless reading) and one band original, all of the tunes come from the two studio albums. (Yep, “Hell’uva Woman” makes its third appearance.)