Monday, November 14, 2011

Abandon of Rock n Roll

It’s been awhile since my last post. Per usual it’s life stuff taking over, and that’s cool, as long as I eventually get a chance to drop a few musical lines in your direction.

In an effort to pop a few entries out back to back, this week I’m focusing on the individual song. I’ve done this a bit in the past, but I don’t think I warned you about it ahead of time.

Not that the outcome will be any different.

Radio Birdman

So, this first offering comes from Australian protopunk outfit, Radio Birdman. Who? Exactly. Most anyone I know had never heard of this band until Sup Pop released an “essentials” collection back in 2001 (which I heard thanks, again, to msp). But long story short, these guys were the all that and a “that’s not a knife, this is a knife” back in the Aussie indie rock scene of the mid to late 70s. Seriously, to read about it, they were the stuff of legends.

Brash, raw, aggressive, their music can take you places, from cruising the strip, to being down and out, to catching a tuff gnarl and riding it clean onto the beach and then hopping off for a cold one. Rob Younger is the Down Under Iggy Pop, loud and straightforward, howling like a madman one instant, and then stepping back for a more contemplative, if not necessarily tender, moment of openness the next.

Rob Younger

And to be sure, the Stooges are Radio Birdman’s most obvious influence, lifting their name directly from the former’s 1970 classic, TV Eye (which also opens RB’s debut full length). This is understandable in a big way because lead guitarist and principle songwriter Deniz Tek, was an Ann Arbor transplant and undoubtedly grew up with Iggy and the boys in his backyard.

But where Radio Birdman decidedly steps aside from the Stooges (and I’m saying aside, not ahead), is sheer technical prowess and an overall sense of cohesiveness. While Iggy and Co often sound like a train wreck in the final stages of disaster (and those of you who know what I’m saying know I mean that in the very best way), under Tek’s guidance, Radio Birdman harnesses that same (raw) power and hones it to a razor’s edge of realized punk pop perfection. Throw in some fist pumping, head banging, hip shaking sing-a-long choruses (somewhat reminiscent of, though I’d say uninfluenced by/separate from, the Ramones), and there’s really little else you could ask for.

Deniz Tek

Another thing that sets Radio Birdman apart from the Stooges and most every other proto-pre-garage punk outfit, and also due to their aforementioned technical prowess, is that they oftentimes do not shy away from, and in fact embrace, what at the time would have been considered “conventional” rock n roll. In short, if it grooves and shakes, these guys celebrate it to the T and execute it to the…er, U.

So, having said all of that, Snake, from their debut EP Burn My Eye, is an exceptional example of most everything Radio Birdman was capable of at the height of their powers. For me, this is a raucous celebration (musically) of the true spirit of rock music, with a set of lyrics that, while a touch obscure, essentially boil down to taking a girl where she wants to be, and with a title like Snake, where that is seems pretty obvious. By the time I get to the first chorus, I’m ready to jump up on a table and start dancing, singing, shouting for the sheer joy of it. And then we get to the solo, which in itself is a marvel, a true work of rock wonder, blistering, uplifting, direct, it’s everything that’s right about being able to play that well and doing it because you should (instead of because you can).

Whenever I listen to these guys, I’m bound to hit the repeat button three or four times once Snake comes around (the same is true for Descent into the Maelstrom as well). Long story short, this song is an anthem, not just (or rather really) to sex, but to the free abandon of rock n roll (or any honest music in general).

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