Graham Reid | | 1 min read
A few years ago while we were in Belfast one of the local identities, a well-known taxi driver Billy Scott who was taking us around, stopped to point to a door down an alleyway where he said the Undertones first recorded.
But he moved on too fast for me to snap a picture (got Van Morrison's doorway at his childhood home though) but it wasn't much of a door anyway.
At the time of the punk era bands like the Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers were the most audible sound out Northern Ireland.
Stiff Little Fingers were an extraordinary band for their era (a version still tours) because of the fury of their sound and political dissent at the height of what is euphemistically called The Troubles. If the Undertones offered some hope amidst the violence, SLF were relentless in addressing it in songs like Suspect Device (their first single), State of Emergency, Here We Are Nowhere, Wasted Life, Breakout ("and leave this life behind") and Alternative Ulster.
All of those and more (including an eight minute martial and machine-gun version of Bob Marley's Johnny Was) were on their incendiary debut album Inflammable Material.
They were mad as hell and wanted people to know it. If any band epitomised the "no future" ethic of punk it was them and singer-songwriter Jake Burns was blunt in addressing a sense of angry hopelessness, and then later matters such as domestic violence, football hooliganism and entropy among youth.
To be honest, SLF were never an easy proposition and this five CD collection -- their first four studio albums and the live Hanx -- would not be to most people's taste.
But they were an important voice in a pivotal period in Irish (and British) history and so treating these albums more as an aural artefacts might be the best approach.
But at just $20 from JB HiFi stores here, they certainly pack a wallop -- without hurting your wallet -- which you won't easily forget. A Bargain Buy that proves again that UK punk was political at birth.