Sometimes, the right guys get the second chances. Overshadowed by their Aussie brethren The Saints, Radio Birdman formed around the same time in 1974, drawing on the proto-punk of The Stooges, New York Dolls and MC5 for their searing, surf-garage guitar roar. The Birdman was founded by surfer-turned-singer Rob Younger and University of Michigan grad Deniz Tek (who bought MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith's guitar before bolting down under). Like The Saints, there's a strong R&B streak at the base of their grimy glam strut.
When Sire Record impresario Seymour Stein landed in Australia to sign The Saints, he saw the Birdman, too, and was impressed enough to tag them as well. The deal was a bust: No sooner had they gotten to England for a six-week tour than the label bailed on them, letting their new records sit still in boxes in their offices. Still, the Birdman toured on valiantly without any product. At the end of the tour, they recorded their second album, Living Eyes, in Wales. They imploded completely. Everyone found his own way back to Sydney.
The ghost became a legend in Australia, and, in the late '90s, Birdman was finally coaxed into reuniting for a few one-offs. After several years of sporadic playing, fueled by a desire to be something other than a nostalgia act, they recorded their third album, Zeno Beach, in 2005.
Released last summer on Yep Roc, the album doesn't skip a beat, in spite of the 28 intervening years. Radio Birdman still delivers classic chunky sound, just with better musicianship, production and a bit more texture than three decades ago. "We've Come So Far (To Be Here Today)" sounds like the Dead Boys clashing with The Damned, and the propulsive, old school, four-on-the-floor rager "Connected" stands up to the raw, gritty abandon of their earlier incarnation (captured in the United States on Sub Pop's Radio Birdman '74-'78). They're following up last summer's first ever U.S. tour with round two. Last year, their frenzied performances proved that the band's churn is as sturdy as ever. Don't expect less.
Radio Birdman plays with Awesome Color and The Ettes at Cat's Cradle Friday, June 29. Tickets are $18-$20 for a 9:30 p.m. start.