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Radio Birdman | Essential | review | rock | Lollipop

Radio Birdman

The Essential (1974 - 1978) (Sub Pop)
by Jon Sarre

These Auzzie scuzzrockers pretty much begat all the other Auzzie scuzzrockers (The Saints, Feedtime, Cosmic Psychos, etc.) and plenty of non-Auzzies, too, but they musta had wax in their ears or somthin' cuz they named their band after mishearin' a Stooges lyric from "1970" (y'know, "Radio Birdman up above" when it's actually "radio burnin'" or somthin' like that), which is sorta like how the most famous Iron Butterfly song got titled, but Radio Birdman flow lots higher than those ponderous creeps (and their Garden of Eden song, "Snake," where guitarist/lyricist Deniz Tek via vocalist Rob Younger imagines himself as the Serpent just so he can get some, which is what it's all about, right? Anyway, it's a whole lot better than "In A Gadda Da Vida," and shorter, too). Tho' ya can mebbe compare Radio Birdman with their Mo-City idols, they really sorta pick up and run with the torch Iggy dropped when he started hangin' out with Bowie. All the way to nowhere, that is, but like I said, ya hear snatches'n'outright rips of 'em all the time and ya'd probably hear more, but their records are kinda hard to find, so das güt that SubPop has given musicians with too few ideas of their own a few more with this "essential" comp.

The Essential...'s pretty much on the mark, too. They only produced two full-lengths and two EPs durin' their initial brief life-span and SubPop's culled the choice cuts for this thing (not like Birdman had lotsa dogs to begin with). This un's all good stuff from The Saints-before-they-existed turnin' Ventures riffs inside out on the first track, "Aloha Steve & Danno" to the live finale super smokers "Breaks My Heart," "More Fun," and "Dark Surprise." Along the way, ya got yer "Murder City Nights," which probably inspired more stupid punk rawk songs than you can shake yer dick at (and the authors of most probably didn't even realize it), but when ya picture hearin' this twenty-five years ago, that musta been somethin'. "New Race" ya could mebbe take the wrong way, but it's probably more in a "Devolution" sorta situ than a "White Minority," "we're not sure if we mean this or not" sorta is-it-or-ain't it, but the boot boy chant chorus at the end was probably an invitation for Oi knuckleheads to take it in exactly the wrong direction (Ditto for "What Gives" yellalongs which probably stuck in the hamheaded/hamfisted brains of lotsa UK second-gen punk hacks).

Radio Birdman shows some neato-complexity, on the other hand, when they strip "Shake Appeal" naked with mebbe a play for a sorta "pop song" on "Love Kills," or, on "Hand of Law," rip-off the "Miserlu" riff (crossed up with "Drinkin' Wine Spoo Dee' O Dee") with ominous lyrics that fit the guitar, a good idea that would make me like Dick Dale more if the thought had occurred to him. Michigan native Deniz Tek (which explains why an Auzzie band would write a song called "Alone in the Endzone") absorbed a lotta surf, which is apparent elsewhere like on "I-94," tho' I dunno where he thought he was shreddin' this SpagWestern-meets-Chantrys number or why his Eskimo Pies are burnin' at ya straight from hell (which is probably a Birdmanesque mishearin'). Altho' he also wellspake the Stooges love/hate death trip language (see "Descent into the Maelstrom" for one; the drum beat that opens the song was later copped by Dead Kennedys on "California Über Alles"), Tek also had a sense of what would work pop-wise, or mebbe that's just sarcasm. I'm never sure whenever I hear "Do the Pop" - The Saints later parodied/referenced it on their second record as "International Robots" - but they always sounded sorta loutish there, which is good/bad, dependin' on the mood I'm in. Pushin' past the pop moves, "Hanging On," "Crying Sun" and "Smith & Wesson Blues" just plain out fuckin' smoke. And I'm always in the mood for that.
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