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Swine Classic Albums
by Dave Streets, of Kenny
Until I did the Summer season in Llandudno '79, my musical tastes could be perhaps best described as 'mainstream'. A cursory glance at my vinyl collection would see the likes of the Beach Boys, the Boomtown Rats, Buzzcocks, The Jam, Squeeze and the Bay City Rollers co-existing quite comfortably in my Kensington maisonette (before they all got robbed by one of the many local smack'eads, in '83, but that's a story for another day).
Llandudno had a thriving punk scene, though, albeit a year or two too late, and my new best friend - a kitchen porter at the Ritz (North Wales version) - was a member of local anarcho-punx (whatever), 'Premature Burial'. And it was he, in fact, who introduced me to SLF, by playing their seminal 7 inch, 'Alternative Ulster' to death, on his cassette recorder. To coin a cliché, it blew my mind, and was, at that time, the greatest song I'd ever heard (and would still easily make my all-time top ten). I rushed off a postal order to an address in London and eagerly awaited the arrival of the first album. From where I sit typing, now, I can see it - although, sadly, in CD format; the original 12 inch slab of punky pop perfection having been 'liberated' (as touched upon in the preceding paragraph) by a pasty-faced ming in a minty Le Coq Sportif tee-shirt and Fruit of the Loom jeans.
Almost every one of the 13 tracks is a winner. From the album's opening line (in 'Suspect Device') - "Inflammable Material's planted in my head, it's a suspect device that's left 2,000 dead' - the listener is taken on a journey through the streets of Belfast circa 1978. Whilst alleged 'rivals', The Undertones, were content to document their problems with girls (lack of), spots, chocolate and subbuteo, SLF (Jake Burns, Ali McMordie, Brian Faloon and Henry Cluney), preferred to deal in the futility, almost, of their existence, and the realities of Northern Ireland life in the bleak late 1970's : "Friday night's here, what's the scene, nothing to do, know what I mean?" ('Here we are Nowhere') or "I won't be a soldier, I won't take no orders from no-one. Stuff their fucking armies, killing isn't my idea of fun" (Wasted Life). Record label Rough Trade is savaged ((in 'Rough Trade') for agreeing to sign the band, before dropping them like a hot potato following - incredibly - advice from it's lawyers ("we were betrayed, betrayed, betrayed, betrayed, betrayed by Rough Trade lies"). Fingers had the last laugh, though, depending on how you look at it. In the spring of 1980, they released a slice of punky / pop crossover in 'At the Edge', and it charted big-time. I saw them at Liverpool's Mountford Hall, and Burns seemed almost embarrassed to play the 'hit' ("I hope that this hasn't brought you all here tonight?"). As a live act, they were unparalleled, and if I were to recommend any album, from their portfolio, other than . . . . Material, get their live offering, 'Hanx'.
Briefly, the second and third albums hardly flew off the shelves, but SLF exist to this day (with Jake Burns the only original member). Jam bassist Bruce Foxton was a member for a while, as I recall. Jakey also gets an excellent mention in Stuart Pearce's autobiography, when the Man City boss is about to introduce his hero to Mrs Pearce. The good lady is expecting the 'London postcard' look - all ridiculous hair and safety pins - and is gobsmacked when the bespectacled Burns appears in a cardigan and sensible footwear. Punk was always about an attitude, and a state of mind, though, rather than a 50 quid (even in '79) mo-hair Dennis the Menace jumper, and bondage trousers from 'Sex'. Stiff Little Fingers were punk in its purest form, and SWINE heartily recommends that you track down a copy of Inflammable Material. You can pick it up - tragically - for £5, and, in the immortal line from it's greatest track, '"go and get it now".
State of Emergency
Here we are Nowhere
No More of That
Barbed Wire Love
Law and Order
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