|Stiff Little Fingers - 'No Going Back' (Self Released)|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Friday, 04 April 2014 03:00|
I found myself in the company of Arturo Bassick and several hundred 'vintage' punk rockers this past weekend, some wise words from The Lurkers' mainstay hurtling through the memory banks as I slipped the new Stiff Little Fingers album into my stereo.
Arturo spoke of people asking why he, as the only original member of the band, bothered to keep the band going, answering that they should ask the others why they didn't want to keep going. Then, when introducing a newer song to the assembled throng, he spoke of knowing that some fans really only wanted to hear old 'classics' rather than new songs, but that they should really check out the newer material as it is "really bloody good."
This hit home when faced with the new SLF album for a couple of, pretty obvious, reasons: firstly, even though original bass player Ali McMordie is now back in the band after the departure of Bruce Foxton, it is down to frontman Jake Burns that there is still a Stiff Little Fingers in 2014, the singer keeping the name and legend afloat, a constant in all its incarnations. Secondly, the UK tour that SLF recently undertook preceding the official release of this new album would, you'd guess, have been littered with crowd requests for classic material over new. Understandable, expected, yet no less disappointing as 'No Going Back' - there's a clue to band feeling in that title, surely? - is not just 'really bloody good', but 'pretty bloody great'.
To be fair to Stiff Little Fingers, the band hasn't really had to endure the oft-embarrassing band member revolving door syndrome of many a veteran outfit: Burns and McMordie now operate alongside guitarist Ian McCallum - an official band member since 1999 - and drummer Steve Grantley who joined in 1996. It may well be over thirty-five years since that iconic debut album, 'Inflammable Material', surfaced, but SLF in 2014 sounds like a band inspired. The polemic may appear diluted, less in-your-face at least, but, song-wise, this legendary band is pretty much hitting every mark.
Funded via a PledgeMusic campaign, 'No Going Back' is the tenth studio album from Stiff Little Fingers, the first for over a decade, and, for those able to embrace the past rather than live in it, is a raucous, hook-laden affair with the emphasis firmly on the song rather than the statement.
That's not to say that political views don't make up a large quota of the lyrical content here, far from it - check out the lyrics to 'One Man Island' for example, or 'Full Steam Backwards' - but these works are less inflammatory, more smouldering...with intent.
No, the might of 'No Going Back' is certainly its dozen-track exercise in infectious, guitar-led songwriting. This album, surely, hosts some of the catchiest songs in the SLF canon. Take 'I Just Care About Me', for example - the song sounding not unlike the late, great Honeycrack come chorus time - or 'Good Luck With That', which features backing vocals from Ricky Warwick, a man who unashamedly wore his SLF influences on his tattooed sleeves at various junctures of The Almighty's career.
Tried and trusted punk rock riff simplicity ushers in 'When We Were Young' and 'My Dark Places', ensuring that more dyed-in-the-wool listeners have their trademark taste quenched, but, by and large, the members of Stiff Little Fingers appear to have approached the making of this new album with nothing but the aim to make a great sounding, vibrant piece of work in their collective thinking. In that they have succeeded, and in some style too.
I knew, and I'm sure you did too, that SLF would continue to knock out valid long players, I'm just not sure I ever thought a new album from the legendary punks from Northern Ireland would be this damn good.