“Teenage Kicks” was John Peel’s favorite song for more than 25 years, and when the legendary BBC DJ died last fall it was played at his funeral–he’d even said he wanted the line “Teenage dreams, so hard to beat” carved on his tombstone. The Undertones’ first single, it never topped number 31 on the UK charts in 1978, even with Peel’s help, but its sweet, concise punk pop is still a perfect justification for his faith in rock ‘n’ roll. The five-piece formed in Derry in 1975 and in just a few years became one of Ireland’s best bands, bringing a disarming innocence to punk’s brawny simplicity with their “songs about chocolate and girls.” The raw charm of their self-titled 1979 debut LP gave way to more sophisticated arrangements on Hypnotised (1980), where the graceful melodies better complemented Feargal Sharkey’s singular quavering tenor. But in 1983, after the soul-and-psychedelia experiments of the next two albums failed to produce any hits, Sharkey quit to launch a solo career; guitarist John O’Neill and his brother Damian went on to form That Petrol Emotion. Though Sharkey has steadfastly declined to participate in any reunions, the rest of the original lineup got back together in 1999 with replacement singer Paul McLoone, who’d been in the Carrelines with drummer Billy Doherty, and in 2003 they issued Get What You Need (Sanctuary), a collection of new material that approximates the bouncy, straightforward feel of the first two records. The catchy tunes are solidly played and just slightly darker than the old stuff, and though McLoone’s voice is a bit like Sharkey’s he doesn’t embarrass himself with an impersonation. Am I happy to see another long-dormant band trying to cash in on a sound it perfected more than 20 years ago? No, but at least in this case it’s a great sound.
“Teenage Kicks” also turns up as one of a dozen covers on Cobra Verde’s new Copycat Killers (Scat). This Cleveland band’s 2003 album Easy Listening (Muscletone) was excellent, hooky glam rock of its own devising, so it’s hard to guess what inspired such tepid, unimaginative versions of Pink’s “Get the Party Started,” Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” and the Fall’s “The Dice Man.” Here’s hoping this record’s just a bump in the road.
The Undertones headline; the Busy Signals open and the Methadones play third. Thu 4/28, 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $15.