Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Stiff Little Fingers - Flags And Emblems (1991)

Stand up and shout....


Released in 1991

Running time 36.37

This was Stiff Little Fingers' first album for nine years, since 1982's Now Then... and it contains some underrated stuff. The Jam's Bruce Foxton had replaced original bassist Ali McMordie and the album has some heavier, denser material than on the band's four preceding punkier offerings. It is quite a political album, in contract with the previous one and, although a little bit of that searing, guitar clashing early punky ire has been slightly dissolved, replaced by a heavier sound, it is still an ebullient, confrontational, "in your face" piece of work. It is their most issue-driven album since Inflammable Material.


1. (It's A) Long Way To Paradise From Here
2. Stand Up And Shout
3. Each Dollar A Bullet
4. The Cosh
5. Beirut Moon 
6. The Game of Life
7. Human Shield
8. Johnny 7
9. Die And Burn
10. No Surrender                                              

(It's A) Long Way To Paradise From Here is a punchy, semi-heavy rock thrash, more rock than punk and while its ok, I have always found it sightly dull, somehow lacking that catchy, energetic spark that the classic Fingers era of 78-82 material had. It actually sounds a bit tired and world-weary. Dr. Feelgood's Lee Brilleaux contributes some excellent blues harmonica on it, though, and the album gets much better from the next song onwards. Maybe I'm being a bit unfair on the song, as it does grow on you and certainly doesn't lack anything in attack. Stand Up And Shout has some nice chunky riffs and, given its title, an unsurprisingly rabble-rousing chorus. It is still relevant, possibly even more so, in 2019. This is a bit more like it. Bruce Foxton's bass is as you would expect - reliable, deep and rubbery. This track probably should have been the album's opener.

Each Dollar A Bullet is one of the album's highpoints - a passionate, hard-hitting condemnation of American second or third generation ethnic Irish and also British governmental financing of Irish terrorism, on both sides of the divide. Jake Burns hadn't dealt with "The Troubles" lyrically much since the band's first couple of albums. He he gives his opinions without holding back over a lively, Celtic-influenced baking. He doesn't take sides - he just wants the violence to stop. Fair enough. The Cosh is also a lively number with more politically-motivated lyrics about economic collapse due to corruption and mismanagement - we are all being coshed to the ground. The "message" theme continues on Beirut Moon which concerns the taking hostage of British Journalist John McCarthy by terrorists in Lebanon.  It is another good one in what has been a run of rousing tracks.

The Game of Life has a big Stonesy riff powering along another impressive song. There is also something latter-day Ramones-esque about it. Human Shield is one of the heaviest things the group had done, full of industrial guitar and pounding drums. Johnny 7 is a real throwback to the Tin Soldiers era. It is a frantic reminder of 1980. Die And Burn is an aggressive, ranting diatribe against petty nationalism. A nice bit of Celtic guitar enhances it half way through. No Surrender also revisits the classic Nobody's Heroes sound and it is great to hear, but in 1991 it all sounded a bit retrospective. Things had moved on and while it was a pleasure for people such as myself to hear good old Fingers back spewing out the invective, the album sounded very much like something from the past. Listening to it now. however, it has a sort of reassuring quality to it. Fingers stuck to their principles and they kept hammering out their messages. They still do. UB40 are the same. Fair play to them.


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