Friday, May 29, 2020

Radio Birdman - Descent into the Maelstrom (documentary)

Truth be told, although I appreciate all of their influences and understand their importance, I have never been a big Radio Birdman fan. Their debut Sire Records album, Radios Appear, had the right idea but, for me, the production was flat and unexciting. I know from personal experience how hard it is to try to translate the live experience to vinyl, so I can't fault them, but the record just never did anything for me and since I could never see them live, I never became a convert.

This documentary, though, has some fairly incredible 70's live footage that is truly incendiary'n'explosive and I realize how many of their songs have been brought to life by other groups with rawer and more powerful recordings.

The story of the band is fairly wild, as well, with Deniz Tek immigrating from Ann Arbor, Michigan (where he witnessed the likes of the MC5 in person) and guitarist Chris coming from Canada and joining forces with like-minded Australians to form a Detroit-styled r'n'r band in the pre-punk mid-1970's, when the Australian music scene was pretty bland, by all accounts.

As it happens in bands, members came'n'went at various times but the documentary does its best to speak with everyone involved, including road crew and fans, to give a pretty well rounded picture. Despite not conforming to the styles of the day, the group developed a fanatical following who adopted their logo proudly and who packed houses wherever they went. They had difficulties recording - although they seemed to like their initial sessions - but did do a couple of releases with a small indie Aussie label before getting signed to Sire. They went to England to start a tour that was supposed to move on to America, but the band broke up and dissolved before they could capitalize on their momentum.

With 6 members of the band that recorded (along with other ex-members and future members), there are a lot of personalities involved and clashes were bound to happen, but Tek, particularly, seems to be a catalyst for a lot of the issues while also remaining the main creative force. He does not come off exceptionally well, overall, and is not all that empathetic to the others' feelings and affairs. Of course, the dissent does make for good filmmaking and the story is enthralling.

Definitely worth checking out and will make a fan out of the unconverted! Dig it!