Radio Birdman

By - Dec 1st, 2006 02:52 pm
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By Blaine Schultz
In the mid-1970s, Michigan native Deniz Tek moved to Australia to attend medical school. There he met Rob Younger, an Aussie who shared Tek’s attraction to the high-energy music of bands like the Stooges and MC5. Tek and Younger formed Radio Birdman, a group that pulled into the New Wave tsunami and released their influential cult classic debut Radios Appear in 1977. Never quite part of any scene, they recorded a follow-up in England (Living Eyes eventually came out in 1981) and imploded while touring in a vehicle dubbed “Van of Hate.”

Two decades down the pike and the members have buried the hatchet somewhere other than each other’s heads. September saw Radio Birdman playing Chicago’s Double Door as part of their first ever U.S. tour. The sweaty, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of faithful had no reason to believe they would ever witness this show. The energy between audience and band was only magnified by years of rock & roll mythology. The sextet of 50-somethings went through amplifiers the way other bands break strings.

Which brings us to Zeno Beach, the album the band was touring to promote. You’d expect something heady from a band whose members’ day jobs include trauma surgeon and U.S. Navy jet pilot, and “The Brotherhood of Al Wazah” and “Heyday” recall the open-minded smarts that once got Radio Birdman compared to vintage Blue Oyster Cult. The opening track, “We’ve Come So Far (To Be Here Today),” could serve as the manifesto as well as feature for Tek and Klondike Masuak’s two guitar inter-lock. While vocalist Rob Younger’s presence may not be as manic as 20-plus years ago, his intensity is trained like a laser. Zeno Beach is a welcome chapter in the Radio Birdman legacy. Let’s hope the next installment happens sooner. VS

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