I'm looking forward to seeing Stiff Little Fingers this month. The Northern Irish punk band is still in good form by all accounts, perhaps because it's the band's lead singer that's kept going - so often bands that break up and then reform have to, at one point or another, replace the frontperson - the voice of the band.
Well not this time. Jake Barns has been bringing the Stiff Little Fingers noise to fans ever since that impeccable debut album, Inflammable Material.
There'll be a new album in March so it's a fair guess that there'll be the token one or two new songs when the band plays its three-date NZ tour February 18-20. There might even be stock of the new album for the tour - but I wouldn't say that's any selling point for me. I really just care about those first couple of albums, the great covers of songs by Bob Marley and The Specials and all those ripping-good originals.
I discovered Stiff Little Fingers when I was looking for something outside of The Clash and those early Elvis Costello records. And it fitted right in, along with the Buzzcocks.
There was a kind of rediscovery for me too when, playing in an Irish band for years, I kept an ear out for anything and nearly everything from the Emerald Isle. We played the old waltz-time stuff and a small handful of songs by The Pogues. We played old ballads like Black Velvet Band but I got so interested in the culture, the people, the place that I was hunting out anything from The Clancy Brothers to Bill Whelan. It was always a treat - time off for good behaviour, in a sense - to be able to kick back with something from Thin Lizzy or Horslips. And to feel that, on some level, it was still research, still practice, still part of the band work, the understanding of the idiom/s associated with the music and culture.
And so that's where Stiff Little Fingers really came into my life. Inflammable Material a better album to me - more enjoyable - than those so-revered records by The Clash, than a lot of the album-filler around all the great Buzzcocks singles. A pretty-much perfect record, one that appears to be a tad under-rated, not all the often raved about when it never puts a foot wrong.
If you haven't heard it - click here to check out the whole album.
Some people might consider the gig a double-bill, given New Zealand's Sticky Filth is playing support. Heading towards their 30th anniversary - and that's with no time off, and probably due to not a lot of good behaviour - Sticky Filth should pull a few of its own fans and please plenty of the Stiff Little Fingers' crowd.
Last year the shows by Killing Joke, Jello Biafra, Buzzcocks, The Members and Peter Murphy (of Bauhaus) were all superb, really great gigs - better than I expected in a lot of cases, and always (at least) as good as I hoped. So I'm hoping this Stiff Little Fingers show will be in that fold. Seems fair to expect that too.
They haven't played Wellington - at least not in my time in the city.
Any Stiff Little Fingers fans out there? Anyone already got a ticket? Or thinking it might be worth it? Anyone seen the band recently? Good news that original bassist Ali McMordie is back in the band, has been since around 2006. That great opener from the first album, Suspect Device, works for so many reasons. Chief among them is McMordie's bass line.
What's your favourite album from this band? Any favourite songs you'd be hoping to hear at a gig?
For further information and to buy tickets click here.
Postscript: Nothing to do with Stiff Little Fingers, but very tenuously linked to the "reunion" or in this case comeback file, David Crosby has released his first solo album in 20 years. And it's really, really good. A very pleasant surprise. My review's there in that link if you read this far and have no interest discussing Stiff Little Fingers today. Keen to know if anyone else has found Crosby's album decent, or is at least thinking of giving it a go.
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts