February 8, 2023
THE UNDERTONES


The Undertones formed in Derry, in the Irish north-west. They were active by 1976, primed by The Stooges, glam rock and the Nuggets compilation of roaring, garage bands. The first Ramones album confirmed their affection for a brash tune, while vocalist Feargal Sharkey was fit for the high, trembling chorus.

In 1978, they released their astonishing debut single, Teenage Kicks on the Belfast-based indie label Good Vibrations. Soon enough, they were signed to Sire Records and began releasing miniature classics about girls and smalltown chronicles. John and Damian O’Neill played guitar, the brothers meshing their riffs together, while Mickey Bradley took care of bass duties and Billy Doherty supplied a precise thump on the snare. The music developed over four albums before they disbanded in 1983.

The Undertones subsequently reformed in 1999 with another Derry singer, Paul McLoone. They have recorded two fine albums with this formation and continue to play punky, urchin-pop that’s mostly unbeatable. 

Here’s their catalogue, ranked worst to best.

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6. Get What You Need (2003)

Get What You Need artwork

(Image credit: Sanctuary)

After the first era of The Undertones, Damian and John O’Neill went on to make visionary art with That Petrol Emotion. There were side projects and solo work, but little chance of the original band reforming, with Feargal Sharkey especially resistant.

Then in 1999 The Undertones played the Nerve Centre in Derry with Paul McLoone (formerly singer with local act The Carrelines) at the mic. By degrees, new music arrived and so album five was revealed 20 years after its predecessor, The Sin of Pride.

This was a joyful reprise of their garage band origins and so the guitar riffs were expertly uncoiled. Clearly, they were miles away from music industry schedules and fashions and the music existed purely for the cheer. Opening track Thill Me was therefore a mission statement.





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