Thirty three years have passes since The Undertones erupted out of Derry, Northern Ireland, with 'Teenage Kicks', a song that has become a classic of its time. Originally on a demo that they sent to Radio 1 DJ, John Peel after it was rejected by the major record labels, it was the song they'll always be remembered for. Falsely lumped in with the punk movement, The Undertones were always more than just three chord no-marks, with their influences stretching back to the sixties and early seventies, as their pre-punk cover band days will attest.
Like a lot of bands they actually became more interesting as their commercial success waned, and by the time of their split in 1983, after four albums, they had moved onto creating some fabulous psych-tinged pop music. Singer Feargal Sharkey had some solo success before his poacher to gamekeeper conversion as a record industry mogul, with the guitar wielding brothers, John and Damian O'Neill taking their musical and songwriting skills of to That Petrol Emotion, who went on to release six albums.
However, 1999 saw The Undertones reforming, albeit with a new singer in the shape of radio presenter Paul McLoone. They've toured ever since and put out two albums of studio material, but it's the oldies that gets the punters coming back for more. Hence this release and their never ending tour. Now this has been out before, more than once in fact. So, if you already own "All Wrapped Up", "A + B Sides" or the previous release of "True Confessions", you won't really be needing this. But if, for some reason, you don't have it, then sort yourself out.
The Undertones released 13 singles between September 1978 and May 1983, and they're all here, from the minor hit single 'Teenage Kicks' (Number 31, fact fans) through the Top Twenty hits "Jimmy Jimmy", "My Perfect Cousin", "Wednesday Week" and "It's Going To Happen!", on into the wilderness years of "Beautiful Friend", "The Love Parade" and "Got To Have You Back", three of the finest singles of the time. By then, they bore more resemblance to Jefferson Starship than they did The Clash, and they were all the better for it.
The early material told tales that any teenager could relate to. They were just stories of working class teenage life, full of misplaced angst and Mars Bars. As the band grew up, so did the music, with synths and brass taking over from chiming guitars, before Hammond organs and big arrangements made an appearance. In less than 5 years, you could witness their transformation from boys to men in words and music. For sure, some of the B-sides are failed experiments, but that's what B-sides were for back in the day when singles ruled the world. It comes with a 16-page full colour booklet, liner notes from Paul Lester and track-by-track comments from bass player Michael Bradley. If you stopped listening after 1981, then the likes of "The Love Parade" and "Chain of Love" will have you reeling. If you never listened at all, then this will open your eyes.
on 22 February 2000
From the first snare crack of Teenage Kicks we are catapulted into the vortex that is teen-heartache...Feargal Sharkeys unique voice makes your legs still wobble at the knees,whilst the abrasive guitars give us the strength to stand tall as this wonderful song ploughs its own furrow into our hearts...Timeless.They carried on writing kitchen-sink musical dramas and traumas,with the odd nod towards da brudders Ramone,but this lot had a Derry edge and the wit to set them apart from the rest..Work,rest and play....After the fizzing dynamics of the early songs,the ideas are still there,witness the naive steps to Beatley psychedelia....unheard of and unusual at the time,that is attempted on Julie Ocean and Wednesday Week...The enthusiasm appears to have slightly waned on the final few tracks and as they are still producing classy pop,its best that they ended on a slight dip than in a hole..at least they didnt get the Human League in to advise them!
on 23 January 2006
I ran across a greatest hits like double cassette or something of the UNDERTONES and didn't pick it up. I'm such a fan of theirs I shoulda. I got this years later and glad I did. There's like one song on it I hadn't heard from their albums and from a few 7"s of theirs I have.
To me the UNDERTONES are the greatest power pop band of all time. It's a combo of the strong guitars, the excellent song writing and maybe even Fergal Sharkey's unique voice. They make great records and I understand they do an amazing live show. I missed 'em the one time they played San Diego in like 1981. Bummer.
If you only own one UNDERTONES record, this would be the one. Real nice packaging too, showing all the covers of the various 7"s. I've been able to gladly hear their music for about 25 years now and it never gets old. Heck, I even like the softer material they did after the first two incredible albums. chris bct
When I'm in a car, travelling at speed, with the sun out one of the first albums I'll reach for is the Undertones.
The vim, verve, panache and life in their music is I think second to none. The following singles are crucial to any lover of shiny freshly minted pop.
Here Comes The Summer
Get Over You
You've got my number ( why don't you use it )
It's Going To Happen
And some great b-sides
Let's Talk About Girls
I'll just say a couple of things about some of these. Firstly 'You've got my number ...' is a completely unrecognised gem. Reaching only #39 at the time it has one of the best riffs of all time - Michael Bradley in the liner notes says his jaw 'just dropped' when Damian O'Neill played it for the first time. Much is made of Brian Wilson's 'pocket symphony' concept - but this song - with the way the riff inverts, and they way the middle 8 builds to a forttisimo , followed by the knockout punch of the ending is exactly that and far less lauded.
Secondly 'Here Comes The Summer' is a 1:59 song - with a middle eight. Unbelievable compactness and all the better for it's terseness and brevity it shows a discipline and imagination that is an object lesson in great songwriting. It just shrieks summer.
But this album, and the Undertones in general are about having fun - not serious journo posturing. You'll find tight, unpretentious music that nevertheless bubbles with energy and talent. What other band could write
( on Mars Bar )
There's glucose for energy
Caramel for strength
The chocolate's only there
To keep it the right length
- and it doesn't sound like some daft novelty record.
32 tracks. What are you waiting for?