Radio Birdman live in 2014: Two perspectives

emmy-manning-wideEmmy Etie photo

The tour is almost over and the verdicts are in following a re-tooling of the line-up with the controversial omission of guitarist Chris Masuak. We present divergent views of the sold-out Australian run of Radio Birdman shows.

Go here to read an appraisal of the Adelaide gig by Robert Brokenmouth and here to read Edwin Garland's read-out on the band's two Melbourne gigs. You can leave comments on both reviews. Photos are by Emmy Etie and Kyleigh Pitcher. 

A Fistful of Desert Blues - Lydia Lunch and Cypress Grove (Rustblade)

fistfulThe cover - taken by Lydia Lunch - shows the ruins of an ancient desert city. Could be Jericho. Whether Jericho is in the Mid-East or the West of the USA makes little difference. We’re dealing with perennial humanity in a perilous place with a mythological backdrop. But, you know, the Israelis and the Palestinians are still killing each other, and as I say, it’s a big thing on a big, operatic stage with no solution and no apparent beginning, never mind end…

… and there are plenty of abandoned towns in Australia… it doesn’t take much, just a bit of intolerance and a bit of ignorance, and idealism for a hopeless, not very sensible cause…

If Footmen Tire You - The Bloody Hollies (Alive Naturalsound)

bloodyholliesjpgIf one of those great, booze-soaked rock and roll weekends like Garage Shock or the Las Vegas Shakedown were still a going concern (correct me if I'm wrong and one of them still is ) the Bloody Hollies would have been one of those bands that came in unheralded, blew everyone away and sold a ton at the merch table. And anyone who picked this album up would have been plenty satisfied 'cos it's 30 minutes of fire-breathin' punk fury.

Detroit - Sonic’s Rendezvous Band (Easy Action)

real-detroitWhat do you think we’d say? Sonic’s Rendezvous Band was truly The One That Got Away. It’s a crime they weren’t signed, recorded and backed to the hilt by a major label and elevated to a household name, but rock and roll is seldom fair. That’s why you need to hear everything you can of this great lost band.

Never heard outside a small circle of alumni and fans, this short but sweet five-song set comes from the January 14,1978 show, on the undercard to the Ramones and the Runaways at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. Maybe.

The opening act was un-billed and surviving band members (that would be Gary and Scott) can’t agree that they played it. All but one song (“City Slang”) has remained in the vaults and the label thought it had issued the gig as part of its splendid box set. But that disc wasn’t even from one entire show, if that makes sense.

Tales of Endless Bliss - The Primevals (Closer Records)

primevals-tales-of-endless-bliss"Hipster beware! Time to be free; rock 'n' roll is primeval beat."

Lindsay Hutton, founder of the “Next Big Thing” fanzine and “The Legion of the Cramped” Cramps Fan Club, knows a thing or two about great rock 'n’ roll. His liner notes to the “On The Red Eye” anthology of early Primevals material succinctly summarised the appeal of the Glaswegian garage veterans: "Their Gun Club meets Radio Birdman take on Detroit rock 'n' soul preachin' blues was much more direct than practically anything that has ever come outta Glasgow.“

Formed by Michael Rooney in Glasgow, Scotland in 1983, The Primevals were the compete antithesis of everything that was fashionable at the time. Right up to the present day, the group has always been roundly ignored by mainstream media both in Glasgow and at a national level, aside from a handful of free thinking journalists who have championed them through thick and thin.

Shark Infested Waters – Various Artists (Easy Action)

sharkinfested A decade into its existence, it’s too easy to brand UK imprint Easy Action as a legacy label. Nostalgia sells - especially to the truly committed or completists - and the imprint's prodigious output of lost or neglected stuff from Iggy, the Stooges, T-Rex, The Yardbirds, the MC5, Steve Marriot and Nikki Sudden (among others) has been mind-blowing.

Then there’s this collection, which takes only a handful of songs to underline that there’s a lot more going on than just re-treading the past. Moriarty, The Red Cords, Amebix, Teasing Lulu, The Black Tambourines and The Skuzzies were names I’d heard but whose music I had not before wrapping ears around this 22-track disc.

Nobody Likes Us – Alice Cooper (Easy Action)

nobody-likes-usLet's not get into discussions about how many times this notable, nay historic, 1969 Toronto gig from the nascent Alice Cooper band has been released.Ladies and germs, this is the definitive, speed-corrected version, with correct song titles, spunky pink artwork and a second gig from San Francisco appended, for good measure. Plus, a couple of feathers inserted, if you're lucky.

Toronto 1969 was the notorious Chicken Show where Alice (the man, not the band) threw a live bird into the crowd only to have it tossed back at him...in pieces. Leaving aside the animal rights aspects of this on both sides - being out of your mind on booze is no excuse for throwing a flightless fowl into a crowd of excitable Hoser  stoners – you might wonder what the fuss was all about, musically speaking.

It is true that Alice Cooper was the most despised band in L.A. at this stage; soaking in the discordant skronk, seemingly random rhythmic shifts and walls of feedback, it's often easy to hear why.

Sun – Dreamtime (Conquest of Noise)

dreamtime-sunEven if writing about music really is like dancing about architecture, applying descriptors is still a necessary evil. You could probably tag Brisbane’s Prog Psych. Americans would probably call them a Jam Band. Both would be correct.

Dreamtime hails from the depths of Brisbane’s underground scene and its music is as exploratory as it gets these days. Both feet are planted firmly in the late-‘60s scene of the US West Coast with a bit of Syd’s Floyd thrown in for good measure. These are meandering, weighty jams built on guitars and a nimble but minimalist engine room. “Sun” pulls in influences like Eastern ragas and percussive touches like chimes.  

Saudade - Mark Steiner and His Problems (Plug Ugly)

saudadeThe battle-lines used to be clearly drawn between Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney was the home of high-energy guitar rock in its many variants, many of them Motor City-derived, while Melbourne spawned an artier, darker strain of music with one foot squarely planted in territory that became known as junkie rock.

These days Sydney’s musical crown is less faded than displaced. Melbourne is in the ascendancy. Its thriving music scene retains an artiness but it rocks as well. The place still does darkness better than most but its palette seems broader. Its tentacles seem to spread further than any other scene in Australia.

Norwegian-American Mark Steiner has visited Melbourne and gulped hard on water drawn from its musical well. He did an Australian tour a few years back but the influences were obviously already in place. There’s a Bad Seeds/Rowland S Howard/Wreckery streak several kilometres wide running right down the back of his bluesy music, but it’s marked by poise rather than self pity.