The Beasts of Bourbon's music has often been compared to that of a rougher Rolling Stones (whose 'Cocksucker Blues' they covered), The Gun Club (who they played with and who some Beasts filled in for) and The Birthday Party. In Germany, the band were described as 'Muddy Waters on crack'. Their music is a tough amalgam of country music, blues, rock and roll and punk parsed through the garage sound of The Stooges and the drunken mayhem of Australian pub rock. It often touches on themes of depravity, morbidity, despair, drug abuse and violence.
The initial version of the group included Spencer P. Jones of The Johnnys, Boris Sudjovic and Kim Salmon of The Scientists and James Baker of The Hoodoo Gurus. Recruited in large part because they were often found in the Southern Cross, an inner-city Sydney bar, these members form what is considered by some to be the 'classic' line-up. This lineup was featured on the band's first album, The Axeman's Jazz, recorded in 1984 in a single afternoon for one hundred dollars by Tony Cohen. The album was an excursion into deranged Gothic country and western, swamp-rock collision with a strong sense of irony and irreverence toward country music's clichés. A cover of "Psycho" was a hit on alternative radio. Although the album became an underground success, the band continued, for the time being, to be just a side project for its members until 1988.