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The Essential Radio Birdman (1974-1978)

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Album Review

Along with Brisbane's spectacular Saints, Sydney's smokin' Radio Birdman also predated the Sex Pistols and Ramones (and played for more hostile, unhappy audiences), and thus deserve the credit for co-founding the mid-to-late '70s punk rock explosion down under — which was every bit as hot as the concurrent, more celebrated U.K. and U.S./Canada scenes. Primary songwriter and blistering lead guitarist Deniz Tek came from Ann Arbor, MI, where he had seen the Stooges and MC5 countless times. Tek made sure that members of departing Sydney band the Rats (who shared stages with his first Aussie band, TV Jones) became hip to his obscure heroes: Birdman was thus formed and early sets were all covers of the Stooges, MC5, and New York Dolls, as well as the Remains, Pink Faries, Jan & Dean, and John Lennon's "Cold Turkey." Their first LP, 1977's Radios Appear, even opened with a torch job of the Stooges' "T.V. Eye." Add some Chuck Berry on speed, some Blue Oyster Cult (the LP title was a BOC reference), and tough singer Rob Younger, and you have the blueprint for the amped up, fiery, pure rock 'n' roll found here. And how great is it to find it at all? A substantially altered version of Radios Appear with a new cover, some substituted new songs, and even some re-recordings was issued in the U.S. on Sire a year later. But it also seemed to have been deleted on arrival; it was so hard to find. Fans had to make do with Aussie imports of their belated live LP, More Fun, the original Radios Appear, and the posthumous second LP, Living Eyes. (The 1988 box set, Under the Ashes, was a must.) Though it would have been better to present these songs chronologically, starting with the seminal 1976 Burn My Eye EP (and the prime covers of "T.V. Eye" and 13th Floor Elevators' "You're Gonna Miss Me" are AWOL!), everything on Essential Radio Birdman: 1974-1978 rattles with pure controlled velocity and riffing two-guitar chops. Unlike the Saints, Birdman were narrowly focused stylistically and tempo-wise, though songs like "Love Kills" and "Man with the Golden Helmet" take on the Stooges' somber "Gimme Danger" side with a liberal dose of the Doors' "Light My Fire." But just a few plays of the super-tight engine hum of "Descent into the Maelstrom," "What Gives?," "New Race," and especially "Burn My Eye" feel like jolts of raw electricity. This is not mere antiquity. Even without the sextet's 1996-1997 homeland reunion tour (check out the live document, Ritualism), and even if you didn't know that superfans the Celibate Rifles, Younger's New Christs, the Birdman/Stooges/MC5 supergroup New Race, and 500 other Aussie bands (many produced by Younger) continued blasting this Detroit-meets-Sydney style ever since (or that Birdman members later contributed to Screaming Tribesmen, Hitmen, and Lime Spiders, or that Tek made three solid solo LPs!), it was clear from these recordings that Birdman's sound would live forever. It still rocks the doors off of any wild party.


Formed: 1974 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australi

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '90s, '00s

Although the best-known band of the early Australian punk scene of the late '70s was the Saints, the first band to wave the punk rock flag in the land down under was Radio Birdman. Formed by Australian émigré Deniz Tek (originally from Ann Arbor, MI) and Aussie surfer-turned-vocalist Rob Younger in 1974, Radio Birdman's approach to rock & roll was rooted in the high-energy, apocalyptic guitar rant of the Stooges and MC5, sprinkled liberally with a little East Coast underground hard rock courtesy...
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