Review: The Undertones – West Bank Songs 1978-1983 A Best Of
Beloved of John Peel, who inspired their 1978 formation and then helped fund their first single, Teenage Kicks, which he soon made his legendary anthem – The Undertones rose from nowhere, or what at least, to its inhabitants, felt at the time like nowhere: Derry, Northern Ireland. Articulating adolescent frustrations with the Buzzcocks’ ferocity and the Ramones’ unruly, juvenile wit – both are audible in their debut album’s Male Model – they launched themselves with perfect pop-punk tunes: their evergreen debut single and its follow-up, the urgent Get Over You, not to mention their debut album’s highlights, including the 105-second anthem for the ages, Here Comes The Summer and the breathless warbling of Jimmy, Jimmy.
Such early triumphs, however, are dotted throughout this celebration, because, as their brief carer continued, the band’s energy started to wane. They made it virtually intact to their second album, 1980’s Hypnotised, whose My Perfect Cousin and There Goes Norman remain primitively rousing, but the title track’s chugging guitars demanded Feargal Sharkey’s ear for melody for their appeal.
Released in 1981, Positive Touch was instead a step towards the negative, with the more overtly political It’s Going To Happen adding unexpected brass to diminishing commercial success, while You’re Welcome wasn’t especially so. By 1983’s soul-inspired but presciently titled The Sin Of Pride, maturity was backfiring, and on Soul 7 and The Way Girls Talk Sharkey’s quivering voice sometimes sounds curiously like a higher-pitched Bryan Ferry. Regardless, Peel’s patronage was absolutely justified: at their best, they were the best.