Radio Birdman are one of those archetypal cult bands: hardly anyone has heard of them, but those who have are absolute fucking rabid, and they’ll tell you just how influential they are. No doubt they’re right: along with The Saints, Radio Birman were one of the first Australian punk bands, and they were certainly early on the scene and ahead of their time, forming in 1974 and disbanding (the first time around) in 1978, just when the rest of the world was tuning into punk. But the nature of influence is such that most influences aren’t aware of the roots of that influence, and the most ground-breaking bands were often unappreciated in their time and remain obscure while their successors reaped the glory and the success. Throbbing Gristle may have spawned industrial, but it’s the acts who refined and diluted their difficult prototype who are most commonly associated with the term in the majority of circles.
A friend of mine, who is in the rabid camp said he was shocked at their obscurity, as well as the obscurity of Tek’s debut solo album, which he described as a ‘lost Birdman album’. Originally released in 1992, ‘Take it to the Vertical’ has been out of print for a long time now, and is being released on vinyl for the first time.
Notable as a musical work in its own right, it also features The Stooges’ Scott Asheton on drums and Radio Birdman guitarist Chris Masuak.
The album’s twelve tracks showcase a classic garage sound: uptempo rockers centred around fairly simple blues-based chord sequences. There’s not a lot fancy about the songs in themselves, and they’re played with energy, which the uncluttered production doesn’t get in the way of, and when the rhythm section comes to the fore, as it does in the second half of ‘Don’t Axe Me’ it’s positively kinetic.
The bluesy ‘Steel Beach’ and ‘Me & Gene’ slow things down a bit, and show that Tek’s got stylistic range, if not vocal range – not that that’s a problem: his distinctive lower-range drawl is quite reminiscent of Iggy Pop, and works well.
One thing that does stand out is the amount of guitar soloing going on: not that it detracts for the most part, and it works in context of the style, but it does very much accentuate the fact that this is a ‘guitar’ album with fairly traditional rockist values. It certainly doesn’t sound like an early 90s album, but then, it doesn’t sound like an album from any other specific time either. What it does sound is solid.