Radio Birdman - Living Eyes (Cover Artwork)

Radio Birdman

Living Eyes (1981)


Radio Birdman were never really a punk band. Sure, they were lumped together with the first wave of punk bands in the late `70s, but their music was too well-crafted and indebted to `60s psychedelic garage rock to belong with the like of the Sex Pistols, the Clash or the Ramones. They're even less punk than the Stooges, who they owe their name too. No, their guitars are too intricate and layered, and too fond of pulling off dazzling solos; they squeezed in too many melodic organ riffs and their songs were too loose and spacious to be considered a direct punk rock attack. They were and are still a bloody great rock'n'roll band though, and Living Eyes is their best album, and one of the best albums ever put out.

Recorded just before their first break-up in 1979 and not released until a few years later, Living Eyes is something of a lost masterpiece. Lead guitarist and songwriter Deniz Tek knew how to use a guitar to its full potential, not just showing off technical skill but crafting memorable riffs and a distinct style and sound with them as well and here he lets loose. On "455 SD" the guitars roar like the motors the band are singing about, while on "Alien Skies" they're used to create a vivid, near-hallucinogenic landscape, and they're just as superb everywhere else too. Not content to just rest on Tek's considerable guitar skill, the rest of the band excel as well; the rhythm section are capable of being loose and jazzy or tight and hard, rocking at will, the organ work is wonderfully melodic, and Rob Younger's vocals are delivered in an extremely broad Australian accent that may take some adjusting to, but are perfectly attuned the music.

Lastly, the songs. It's no exaggeration to say that Radio Birdman deliver some that are stone cold rock classics here. The already mentioned "455 SD" is one of them, but no lesser are the poppy "Breaks My Heart" and "More Fun" or possibly one of the most covered songs by Australian bands, "Alone in the Endzone" and the flat out awesome "Smith & Wesson Blues." The rest are fantastic too -- simply not a bad one among them. Even the lyrics, while not pointedly political or direct, have a certain hazy post-apocalyptic vibe even when singing about cars or girls, and that's hard to fault.

Simply put, if you like raw energetic and original rock, get a hold of this album -- you won't be disappointed. One of the reissues also comes with the fantastic live More Fun EP as well, and it's well worth getting that version if you can.