Year 5, Day 15: Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with some “Teenage Kicks” with The Undertones

Year 5, Day 15: The Undertones – The Undertones

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Track list

  1. Family Entertainment
  2. Girls Don’t Make It
  3. Male Model
  4. I Gotta Getta
  5. Teenage Kicks
  6. Wrong Way
  7. Jump Boys
  8. Here Comes The Summer
  9. Get Over You
  10. Billy’s Third
  11. Jimmy Jimmy
  12. True Confessions
  13. She’s A Runaround
  14. I Know a Girl
  15. Listening In
  16. Casbah Rock

About the Album

The Undertones is the debut album from Northern Irish punk band, The Undertones. The album was recorded early in 1979 and released on May 13th 1979 through Sire RecordsNumerous polls in 1979 that were conducted placed The Undertones as one of (if not) the greatest albums of the 1970s and one of the Top 40 Punk/New Wave albums of all time.

Thoughts on the album

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone! While looking for an Irish band to feature today, I had to dig deep through my music library and even my dad’s music library for something to feature. Lo and behold, I found a classic. A gem. A diamond in the rough. You get it. Today’s album is the legendary, The Undertones by none other than, The Undertones. Now I know I say “legendary” or “quintessential” or “genre-defining” a lot. I get it. But this album is a classic, given the time period it was released and the war in it genre of music that was going on.

The Undertones as an album, musically, could have traveled down a couple paths. One path being influenced by disco, and becoming a mishmash of punk/new wave. Another path the band could have taken with their sound was into a hardcore punk a la The Sex Pistols. Or they could have went the route of The Jam and fused a version of the mod movement into their punk sound. With this album, you get an excellent showcase of The Undertones‘ sound, style, and conviction. The album itself is the definition of what modern pop-punk is: three chord power pop… except in this case it is crammed into lightning fast two minute songs. The songs are unapologetic on their worldview, of course that should be a given considering the songwriters weren’t even out of their teens yet! The Undertones highlights the influences that The ClashThe Ramones, and the Buzzcocks had on the band.

The Undertones scored massive success with their first single, Teenage Kicks, which I would describe as a precursor to a modern day punk rock anthem. It’s fast, loud, and carries some serious clout with a massive sing-a-long chorus. Most importantly, having heard a lot of punk bands of this time period, I can say one thing: it’s a fun song. Instead of criticizing the government or talking shop about politics or whatever the bands of the era did, they went the opposite direction and talked about teenage love and wanting to hold the hand of the girl you love. Aww…. how sweet. Ironic that this topic would be picked (back) up by pop-punk bands of the 2000s. The singles Get Over You and Jimmy Jimmy are equally as fast and fun. Jimmy Jimmy, despite being a fast paced and fun song tackles serious subject matter in suicide and depression, though it does deliver a message of optimism that their contemporaries did not.

Perhaps, it is because of Feargal Sharkey’s quivering whine that makes Get Over You and Teenage Kicks less Neanderthal and more cute and fun. Or maybe it could be because of the O’Neill brother’s chipper schoolboy-like harmonies. Either way, this is a album that has aged incredibly well and it’s formula is very simple: easy four chord punk tracks all executed with enthusiasm. The album is lightning paced and finishes at around roughly 30 minutes long with the longest track being 2 minutes and 45 seconds long. There is no variation or variety, but is to be expected. The lyrics aren’t anything grandiose, complex, or heady. Sometimes, simple is better and it works here.

Conclusion

The Undertones follow a simple methodology with The Undertones, their self-titled debut album: K.I.S.S. or Keep ISimple Stupid. The eternally youthful single, Teenage Kicks transcends time as it continues to be model for simple three/four chord pop-punk tracks of today. You arguably thank the punk movement for the return of the three minute track! Some tracks on the album may just be cheesy as hell, but it works. The album continues to stand the test of time and serve as a veteran vanguard for those who venture into the realm of three/four chord pop-punk.

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