There are few bands in the history of Australian music who have managed to maintain credibility throughout the decades to the same extent Radio Birdman have. Into the Maelstrom, a recent film documenting the history and the development of the band, revealed an act determined to force something which was at that point foreign into Australian rock n roll. It also revealed a band tearing itself apart from the inside out over the course of forty-five years of writing, recording and performing.
Perhaps the tension can go some ways to explaining the intensity this band still bring to their stagecraft. They are, after all, not young men. Singer Rob Younger probably shows his age more than anyone else, but there remains an unmistakable air of considered antipathy, expressing itself through fluid indifference.
Radio Birdman take the stage at Manning Bar and do what they’ve always done. They play fucking hard, fucking tight and fucking loud. The driving force behind the band is songwriter and guitarist Deniz Tek, the man best known for having done literally every single thing there is to do in the universe. He lives up to his reputation of bringing a thinly veiled menace to the show. There is a raw kind of aggression to his guitar work which bands who play much faster and harder have been unable to match. As usual, the comically understated Pip Hoyle on keys is restrained in his approach but throughout many of the pieces they play his contribution reveals itself to be the key factor.
Birdman bring two support acts with them for this show. First, the phenomenal Los Chicos play. They do a type of cramps inspired psychobilly thing. Their frontman, rocking some kind of Spanish Waylon Jennings look, is completely mental. A mess of chaotic energy with a unique vocal talent, his stagecraft sets the tone for the show right from the start. His band play tight and have a pretty good dynamic, working as a unit to create something totally engaging. I picked up a copy of their newest record, By Medical Prescription, which lives up to the promise of the stage and is well worth a listen if you like your punk with a slim country tinge.
Los Chicos are followed by HITS, a local act. Driven by two extraordinary guitarists, combined with meaty bass and a kind of sideways drumming HITS make a blissfully dirty version of rock n roll. They make a nice bridge between the insanity of Los Chicos and the ferocity of Radio Birdman and round out the trio well.
Radio Birdman set the template for Australians who wanted to make music that provided relief from the bloated, indulgent excesses of the mid-seventies. Maybe they keep playing because we keep needing them to.
Photos – John de Haan
Review – Benjamin Smith