Undertones - Undertones/Hypnotised album review

40th-anniversary vinyl/digital reissues of Derry pop-punks’ first two albums.

Undertones Hypnotised album cover

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The Undertones’ tardiness was a virtue. They may have played their first gigs in 1976, but they didn’t emerge with their debut single, Teenage Kicks, until late 1978 and their debut album wasn’t released until May the following year. By that point, alternative/indie bands were experimenting with dub and funk and lyrically exploring the heart of darkness – in a word, postpunk – whereas The Undertones, all spotty skin and C&A-urchin chic, were still singing about, well, chocolate and girls to a distinctly perky, punky racket. And amid all the heavy death disco and existential angst they sounded utterly refreshing, a hark back to simpler times.

Their first album, reissued here in its original sleeve (unlike the October ’79 re-release including Teenage Kicks), includes Here Comes The Summer and Jimmy Jimmy and suggests the band were as steeped in glam and 60s pop as they were in punk. On Wrong Way, Feargal Sharkey’s tremulous warble is at odds with the period snarl, but in its expression of insecurity (‘Stop treating me this way, girl’) it’s just as radical.

By 1980’s Hypnotised, John and Damian O’Neill’s songs were becoming increasingly sophisticated, with the single My Perfect Cousin the best-known example. But it’s Wednesday Week that offered the most tantalising signpost to where The Undertones were headed, towards the soul-psych shimmers of 1981’s Positive Touch.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.