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Music Review: The Undertones – True Confessions

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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 get 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 five 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.

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About Stuart A Hamilton

  • GEAH

    “By then, they bore more resemblance to Jefferson Starship than they did The Clash, and they were all the better for it.”

    Idiotic.

  • Mr H

    Spoken like a true narrow minded Clash fan!