Undertones - Dig What You Need (Dimple Discs)

Undertones – Dig What You Need (Dimple Discs)

…what, another Undertones compilation? Well, yes, only this one’s a bit different.

See, many people can tell you the story of how five lads from Derry, led by one Feargal Sharkey, formed in 1975. Their classic debut single ‘Teenage Kicks‘ which went on to be John Peel‘s favourite song and is still widely played today, and how the band made several LPs and had a number of hits between 1978-1983, before calling it a day, with Feargal going solo and the O’Neill brothers John and Damien being part of That Petrol Emotion.

In 1999, the Undertones reformed, and with Feargal not wishing to be involved, his place was taken by Derry’s Paul McClone. Still together to the present day, they have recorded two albums, 2003’s Get What You Need and 2007’s Dig Yourself Deep, which is where this compilation takes its name from. Bands that reform often have an uphill struggle, in terms of living up to what people’s memory was. Yet, while neither album may have been a huge commercial success, there is no sense of them resting on past glories. The band’s old champion John Peel had them back for a session in 2003, and indeed, two tracks from the Get What You Need set made Peel’s annual Festive Fifty that year.

The first track on that album ‘Thrill Me‘ opens this compilation, and if you had any concerns that a bunch of middle-aged men reforming might produce only poor songs, this track alone would have made it worth doing. It really is sheer joy. Is it ‘Teenage Kicks?’ Well, no, but play fair. No-one expects Bob Dylan simply to be trying to write the same songs that he did sixty years ago. What’s impressive is that they managed to keep the quality up and this 13-track compilation picks the highlights of the two albums, and they’re not trying to write more songs about chocolate and girls (if you know, you know).

While the majority of songs across the two new albums had more in common with the band’s self-titled debut and their second album Hypnotised, rather than their final two original albums, there is definitely an element of varying the sound a little that comes across more on this compilation than listening to the two albums together: ‘She’s So Sweet‘ has more in common with the Merseybeat sound, and ‘Fight My Corner‘ suggests that T. Rex and the rest of the early seventies glam pack held more than a passing fascination for the Derry boys, while ‘Winter Sun‘ is gorgeously dreamy

Reportedly the two albums won’t be re-issued on vinyl, so if you’re desperate to have these tracks on vinyl (and why wouldn’t you be?) this is the place to be. Hopefully it will encourage people to see that there was more to the band than just ‘Teenage Kicks‘, even if that record was like Citizen Kane, in that it was such an amazing start it, everything afterwards would be compared to it. Given that ol’ Feargal doesn’t want to sing at all these days, it may be a while until this era joins the original one on a compilation near you. But listen without prejudice, and there’s a lot of joy to be had here. It may not be groundbreaking, but it doesn’t need to be.

And thankfully, this compilation doesn’t have a woman covered in raw meat on it either…

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.