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Monday, December 12, 2005

Review: The Undertones - Teenage Kicks, The Best Of

The Undertones are still around but you'll have to excuse me if I refer to them in the past tense. Their two great albums fronted by Feargal Sharkey (real name not Dirk Gently) came out in 1979 and 1980, and that's where and when I think of them on the great timeline of alt.music. Nothing against the band now by any means.

This quote from Wikipedia is perfect: "Scarcely a harsh word was ever written about the Undertones. Their genuine inability to pose or pontificate disarmed the most hardened critics. No-one could ever quite come to grips with their apparent innocence and naivity. They weren't at all naïve, of course, they just came across that way, and, to some extent, it prevented their later work from being taken as seriously as it deserved. Regarded as perpetual teenagers. No-one, it seemed, wanted them to grow up." - Mick Houghton

The Undertones were a pop-punk band who lacked the bite of The Buzzcocks but were tougher than Split Enz, their closest rivals around 1980. Or maybe that would be The Rezillos. I think of them as a singles band, sounding even better in small doses. It's not about repeating themselves as much as their music is so peppy and fun I can't imagine it being maintained (or appreciated) in large doses.

Teenage Kicks: The Best Of The Undertones is an excuse to write about a great band that may get lost in the shuffle. What they took from the Ramones was the aesthetic of writing the chorus to great pop songs and rarely leaving that high point. From The Sex Pistols they took DIY inspiration and stepped in the door as it was being opened. They may have shared some of the Jam's mod energy but lyrically they tapped the same source of Ray Davies and The Kinks.

The only track on this I like from 1981's Positive Touch is "When Saturday Comes". At this point they branched out to a more relaxed sound with keyboard and horns. The early tracks are gems. I can't imagine hating The Undertones. 99% of the hardest scumfuggs out there still appreciate a good melody and The Undertones knew how to write them.

All I'm saying is if "Get Over You" doesn't make you smile you're dead inside.


Anonymous Ishbaka said...

And they took their pants from The Bay City Rollers.
Bought both the LP's when they came out. Transferred them to CD 2 days ago. Good family entertainment.
The song you REALLY gotta love is "Casbah Rock" recorded "In Mrs. Derry's Shed" on a cassette recorder.

4:31 AM


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