THE UNDERTONES The Undertones (Earmark)
Musically, The Undertones’ 1979 debut is buzzy, nervy, tuneful but disposable nascent post-punk, its lyrics obsessed with adolescent concerns, all topped off by Feargal Sharkey’s tremulous, nagging vocals. There’s a mild shock to “True Confessions”, which almost approximates Giorgio Moroder’s disco robotics, but generally it’s the kind of thing that maybe you had to be there at the time to appreciate fully.
Earmark have chosen to release “The Undertones” as a picture disc, which is a bit of a puzzler as there’s nothing particularly iconic about the album’s cover art. At least the overhead cover shot used on later pressings had the cachet of an attempt to remake that of The Who’s “My Generation”. Perhaps there’s a subculture of Undertones fans (or unrepentant illegal downloaders) who derive some kind of pleasure from seeing Sharkey’s bejumpered midriff speared by the spindle, but somehow I doubt it.
Having the constant drizzle of surface noise typical of picture discs, “The Undertones” sounds a bit overemphatic, with thudding bass and ear-syringing treble that do nothing to promote long-term listening enjoyment. (Perhaps it’s a blessing the album’s only 29 minutes long.) Additionally, there are several skips during “Jump Boys” that it’s difficult to discern are there as an artistic affection or because this release was mastered from a skipping CD.