Caught between punk and pop, between their half-smiling Irish eyes and their teenage Beatle complex, between their powerhouse guitar-playing brother team (Sean and Damian O’Neill) and their slightly dorky lead singer (Feargal Sharkey), the Undertones ran the gamut from scrappy near-greatness to sticky goo. Sharkey has since become an extremely dorky ersatz soul singer, but the O’Neill brothers have fulfilled their promise with a new band, That Petrol Emotion. Political rockers with an artistic lineage closer to Parnell and Stiff Little Fingers than Yeats or U2, the Petrols find themselves too busy dodging bombs in Belfast to step into the mystic. In their two fine albums, the aptly titled Manic Pop Thrill and the surprisingly funky Babble, the Petrols sound like the right stuff for agitpoppers who have wished for a more subtle Jam, a more melodic Three Johns, or a more populist Mofungo. And just when you’re convinced that they’re merely tuneful primitives, the Petrols will launch into a convincing cover of Captain Beefheart’s “Zig Zag Wanderer,” which is rapidly becoming the thinking band’s alternative to “Louie, Louie.” Tonight, 7:30 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve Double.