The Undertones @ Metro Theatre Review

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Originating from the mid '80s, tonight’s (8 July) opening act feedtime are according to Australian musicologist Ian McFarlane “grinding guitars and driving beats with an unsettling ambience”.

Well, that hasn’t changed. It’s fucking noisy. A three-piece from the wrong side of the tracks Cosmic Psychos daren’t cross. On another night, I might have thought good noisy, but I’m a bit under the weather God help me.

It’s honey-monster vocals, regional work guitar over slide bass and a drummer with no cymbals. Todd Trainer minimalism and then some. Their opening tune is fun. A lady friend joins them singing 'ooooh' vocals like Madonna's sister that didn't get sent to the posh school.

They sing about Pontiacs and gasoline. The singer means business; in that he means to put every business out of business. And that fucking guitar, Jesus it’s like a freight-train squeal slowing to a stop that never comes echoing from Uluru to Timbuktu.

Then the bass player plays slide on all his strings and I can't do it anymore. Fuck this. To the bar, time out.

“Time marches on.” A phrase that grows more fangs with the passing of time. And appropriate tonight. It’s, well, 40 years (JESUS!) since The Undertones wrote ‘Teenage Kicks’, their anthem that John Peel got carried out of the church to. And here they are for their first ever Sydney show.

The Undertones were fronted by Fergal Sharkey back in the day. Yeah, “a good heart is hard to find” that guy. So a big part of their sound was his thin, copper voice occupying any and all spaces left by the pummelling walls of Derry guitars and ‘to hell or Connaught’ drums and bass. And it all clicked perfectly. Lightening in a bottle. They were all teenagers when they wrote this shit and it still stands up magically.

Tonight, they open their set with three crackers: ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘Jump boys’ and ‘Here Comes The Summer’. It’s all quiffs and dad bods if your dads – in this case – happen to be David Bowie, Morrissey, some Alien vs Predator vs ibis love-children and one of the guys out of Garbage.

And then it happens. ‘It’s Going To Happen!'. Unlike any of the previous singles released by The Undertones, all of which focused on teenage angst and romance, 'It's Going To Happen!' was written in reference to the 1981 hunger strikes in Northern Ireland.

And such is its pop-tasticness it could have been a template from which The Housemartins were formed. The delayed vocal line on the chorus, dig it. Great stuff.

The moshpit is a melange of punk free-birds released, bovver boy perfect cousins, ale street preachers, Kasbah chancellors, let’s-see-some-handsome types and what have you.

The no-fuss arrival of ‘Teenage Kicks’ mid-set is refreshing. We appreciate not having to wait too long. It’s only a song after all. Yeah right. Awesomeness fills the air.

“Kevin” or tonight’s frontman Paul McCloone – “he’s in love with himself” would be a fair statement, which is fine for a frontman. Methinks he thinks he’s Morrissey’s twin. The buttons open one by one and the sexy dance augments as the night goes on. And considering how unique Sharkey’s voice was, this is not better, but that would probably be impossible.

The fact that the crowd’s loudest sing-along moment of the night “and bionics!” is testament to Sharkey’s performance on the recording. But The Undertones canon is in safe hands. McCloone’s own range-conquering voice and those of Damian O’Neill and Mickey Bradley’s backing vocals form an unstoppable sing-along line of attack.

‘My Perfect Cousin’ forms part of a thorough encore.

They left nothing on the field of play. They still got it. See them while they are still on tour here in Australia. It could be another 40 years before they return.

2018 AIR Awards Nominees Playlist


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