Fricke's Picks: The Undertones' Pop Kicks


"Teenage Kicks" — the opening track on the 1978 debut EP, Teenage Kicks, by the Northern Ireland quintet the Undertones — is perfection. There is no other word for its two and a half minutes of balled-fist fuzz chords and raging-hormone emergency, written with telegram concision by guitarist John O'Neill and delivered with bleating-ram vigor by singer Feargal Sharkey. And that was just the beginning. Until the original lineup split in 1983, the Undertones made the best girls-and-fast-noise pop outside of the first four Ramones LPs, over their own four albums and a dozen-plus singles. An Anthology (Salvo) is a dry name for two CDs of such front-to-back joy. The first disc is a great hello to newcomers: 29 U.K. hits and choice album-and-B-side cuts sequenced out of chronological order but in weird, delightful mood swings, like the midpoint segue from the bratty zoom of "There Goes Norman" into the acid-pop flashes of "The Love Parade," the plaintive jangle of "When Saturday Comes" and the supersugar rush "Mars Bars." The second disc is more fun in rougher form: live tracks and demos by a band that was always within arm's reach of punk-pop perfection.

[From Issue 1070 — January 9, 2009]

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David Fricke

Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke has more than 10,000 albums in his New York apartment. His first record review for the magazine was Frank Zappa's 'Sheik Yerbouti' (RS 290).

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