THE UNDERTONES – Positive Touch (1981)
Best song: “When Saturday Comes”
Pop-punk, when you don’t abuse its easy appeal, can be a good thing. And arguably no one could do it better (at least in the 70s/80s) than The Buzzcocks and, more importantly for us, Northern Ireland’s The Undertones. Whereas The Buzzcocks’ compilation Singles Going Steady! remains the ultimate genre-defining Classic, The Undertones’ self-titled debut from 1979 is perhaps the pop punk album you need.
Their more mature Positive Touch, though, was different. It does contain their landmark pop punk touches, but this is quite clearly a very 60s-flavoured record with tuneful psychedelia, British Invasion-styled pop, and garage-rock rave-ups. Melodic guitar lines (the jaunty “I Don’t Know” is pure brilliance) and clever vocal hooks – seriously, if good music is your kind of thing, this record could be for you. My favourite is the classic 60s guitar-pop nugget “When Saturday Comes”, but the album’s extremely even.
Some might have a problem with Feargal Sharkey’s raspy vocals (that sound not unlike Roger Chapman’s), but I personally find them different in a good, effective way. Overall, the band’s songwriting may not always be top-notch (“Hannah Doot”, for instance, is a little too obvious) and may seem somewhat derivative on occasion, but one can’t put down a good tune. And good, catchy tunes there are plenty.
As for Irishness, there is none. Northern Irishness? Mmm maybe.
RECOMMENDATIONS. Well, I’ve already mentioned that acclaimed debut album, but their golden period also included the pre-Positive Touch album Hypnotized (1980; more of the same) and the more soulful Sin Of Pride (1983). For me, though, Positive Touch is their strongest, most filler-free proposition.