Searing Austin garage punk band the OBNIIIs are the best approximation of Radio Birdman on this side of the earth. Unless the Australian chromatic-rock legends extend their 2016 tour beyond Europe, the OBNIIIs’ menacing minor keys and whirlwinds of machinegunning, macabre riffage over a hotrod rhythm section are the closest thing that American audiences will see this year. They’re playing Shea Stadium in Bushwick on April 23 at around 10; cover is $12.
They’ve done a couple of New York gigs over the past several months; the last time this blog caught them was at one of those annoying rush-’em-on, rush-’em-off late-afternoon Colossal Musical Joke shows at Cake Shop in the fall of 2014. Frontman Orville Bateman Neeley III is a big, imposing guy, and he had a chip on his shoulder right from the git-go at this show. Everybody in the band looked hungover and mean, especially him. He sneered that he’d finally gotten some good press out of the NME (the New Musical Express, a formerly influential British rag whose writers took considerable pride in dissing iconic bands like Joy Division back in the day when those opinions actually mattered). Neeley, when his role in the band was limited to vocals, was infamous being confrontational with the audience. Was he going to get up in anybody’s face? Actually not. But there was no shame in his snarl as he mentioned how hard he’d worked on his guitar playing, and he’s got a right to be proud: the twin-guitar attack of this latest edition of the group, with lead guitarist Tom Triplett’s murderous cascades and coal-oven flurries of chords, is the best yet.
Too bad the sound was so bad – hardly typical for Cake Shop, but you know how CMJ is – and the set was so short. They could have gone on for twice as long and the packed house still would have wanted more. Triplett, playing a gorgeous vintage Gibson Flying V, got plenty of chances to solo, but it was hard to figure out what he was going for without watching his fingers as they flew up the frets. Otherwise, Neeley led the band through a mix of recent as well as older material, from a twisted, Dead Boys-style stomp, to a couple of stampeding numbers in a Raw Power-era Stooges vein, to No Time for the Blues, the closing tune, the best and most darkly catchy, chromaticaly bristling track on the band’s Live in San Francisco album. Drummer Marley Jones swung with a pummeling finesse, in a Dennis Thompson vein; bassist Michael Goodwin, like Triplett, was way too low in the mix. At the end of the set, Neeley left his guitar up against his amp to let it feed, but only got a hum and a few sputters instead of the shriek he was no doubt hoping for.