Sunday, April 17, 2005

Teenage Kicks So Hard to Beat

The Undertones just played a 3 night stand here (well they're playing tonight at Southpaw) and I caught last night's Knitting Factory show as well as the show on Friday night at Maxwells, which was the opener of their current 2 week U.S. tour. I can't describe in words how much I love this band (they're one of my all-time favorites), but what I will say is this: if you're a fan (or if you like late '70s punk or power-pop and aren't familiar with them) and they come anywhere near you, go see them! Their tour dates are here.

I saw both Knitting Factory shows last year (they only did those 2 and a show in DC when they came here last year) and I can say that as great as those shows were, they're much improved this time around. First of all, they seem more comfortable with each other (new singer Paul McLoone was cracking smiles and jokes throughout both performances) and with their audience, which consequently seems more accepting of them. And luckily, though it was a treat to see people going nuts, dancing and pogoing (unlike many shows I go to, which consists of indie-rock kids folding their arms), there weren't too many slam-happy punk morons like there were last year (more so at Maxwells than last night at Knitting Factory). Of course, the songs from the 1st album (which they played almost the entirety of) garnered the strongest reaction, but as for me personally, I thought the strongest performances (other than the immortal "Teenage Kicks" and "Get Over You", their New York Dolls tribute, both of which just killed live) were of "Thrill Me" (from 2003's fantastic comeback album Get What You Need) and a much improved "Julie Ocean" and "When Saturday Comes" (both from 1981's fantastic and severly underrated watershed album Positive Touch, which was maligned at the time by fans for not being the simple, fun pop-punk of the first 2 albums, but rather a Squeeze-influenced, darker post-punk work) .

And man, were they loud! My ears rang the day after the Maxwells show since I was foolish enough not to wear earplugs for most of the set, though they feel better today since I learned my lesson and put my earplugs on last night during their set. The closest comparison is the MC5 (a huge influence on them, especially their last album High Time; just ask John O'Neill, guitarist and primary songwriter), with their 2-guitar attack producing a rush of feedback fettered through Marshall stacks. What a sweet sound that is when combined with their sugary-sweet melodies and lovelorn, innocent, wide-eyed lyrics.

And what's even more amazing about this, other than the fact that they're playing and touring and recording (supposedly 7 songs are already in the can for a new album; they've been playing one of them, "Here Comes the Rain", on this tour, and it sounds awesome) with a new singer, is that they're using a fill-in drummer on this tour (and he didn't miss a beat!). Billy Doherty, their regular drummer and an original member (like the rest of them except Paul McLoone, their new singer), accidentally fell off his bike and injured his hand (though guitarist Damian says that he's feeling better), so they had to hire a fill-in at the last moment. His name is Davy and he hails from Derry, which is in Northern Ireland (like the rest of The Undertones; they all still live in Derry as well except for Damian, who was stayed in London).

I got to meet them again last night after the show and once again, they proved to be as nice as you'd want a great and legendary band like them to be. Unfortunately, the club's staff kicked us all out of the backstage area last night way too soon since there was a late show (the much-buzzed about Magnolia Electric Co.) and the bands for the late show had to set up their stuff (we made them wait 2o minutes, though; ha!).


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