There’s no debating SLF’s legacy. It’s as revered as ever. Just listen to the newest crop of oi and street punk bands. The blueprint they drafted is a trusty one. SLF’s songs, “Alternative Ulster” and “Suspect Device” alone, bands would stab their own mothers to write. It took balls as big and hairy as coconuts to be an uncompromising punk band in the midst of a war: 1977 Belfast. Inflammable Material, their first, is a near-perfect album. They held their own with the Clash and the Sex Pistols. Granted. That heritage is in check, and that’s not in doubt. That’s the good news. The bad news is that with Guitar and Drum – including The Jam’s Bruce Foxton on bass no less – the pendulum has swung from the SLF of old with grit, gasoline, and Jake’s unmistakably cigarette growl to run-of-the-mill shit-poppunk territory. It’s so pro-dude, pro-equipment wank, gloss, and sheen with hot licks and tasty chords that it almost sounds like a “punky” soundtrack to an ‘80s movie starring Molly Ringwald hosting a bunch of crappy bands like Simply Red, INXS, the Outfield, Genesis, and, at times, The Fifth Dimension. (“Be True to Yourself” has more in common with “(The Age of) Aquarius” than any sort of punk rock.) It is varied. I’ll give it that. It gets drunk from sucking a wide variety of stylistic cocks. That said, there’s a couple decent songs on here, remnants of SLF of yore – like “Who Died and Made You Elvis” and “Guitar and Drum.” If this whole affair was under the moniker of Jake Burns and the Big Wheel (since he’s the only original member by a long shot), I wouldn’t be so hackled up. Smalltown’s new CD annihilates the present-tense SLF at their own game. No contest.
–todd (Kung Fu)