published: 13 /
Every now and again a band comes along that refashions the very fabric that rock'n'roll's rich tapestry is made from. And, as is the way, it is more often than not that it is these innovatory forces t
Every now and again a band comes along that refashions the very fabric that rock'n'roll's rich tapestry is made from. And, as is the way, it is more often than not that it is these innovatory forces that fail to achieve the critical claim they deserve.
Step forward That Petrol Emotion. Hailing from the Emerald Isle (with the exception of their lanky American front man Steve Mac) and boasting the O'Neill brothers of ex-Undertones fame (yes the guys who wrote 'Teenage Kicks') the Petrols burned brightly for the second half of the 80's and the early 90's. Back then, with their explosive mix of politics and fizzing, angular guitar pop, their elevation to major league stardom looked like a matter of time. How cruel fate can be - after a number of sensational albums they finally called it a day, failing even to even graze the charts with a string of excellent 45s. Ironic how teenagers and thirty somethings alike these days go all gooey-eyed over even the most dire 'stars' from the 70's and 80's while the Petrols remain one of the best kept secrets.
The omens were good from the off. Their debut LP 'Manic Pop Thrill' was an adrenaline rush of avant-garde pop at its best with its probing, jabbing guitars and sweet melodies reminiscent of Wire, Pere Ubu and the good Captain (Beefheart) himself. 'Babble', their second LP and their major label debut for Polydor (a label that failed to appreciate the finer qualities of the band), now re-mastered onto CD with extra tracks, has stood up to the test of time well. From the opening chords of 'Swamp' its clear that one of the Petrols endearing qualities was their ability to pen a good pop hook. Sean O'Neill and Reamann O'Gormain's whining, intertwining guitar playing is something to behold. The relentless crashing beat of 'Spin Cycle' with its circular guitar riffing offers further proof. The beautiful creeping mantra of 'For what it's worth' shows the band were equally at home with the slower numbers. But it is 'Big Decision' that is the ace in the bands pack. The hit that never was, with its political overtones and clever fusion of agit-guitar pop with dance and even rap ("What you gotta do in this age - agitate, educate, organise!") - it does get better than this. The unremarkable 'Static' and 'Split' are the only blemishes on an otherwise glowing album - showing that even the Petrols sometimes got bogged down in their own guitar meshings.
The drum propelled 'Bellybugs' get things moving in the right direction again. The staccato beat of 'In the play pen' utilises the bands trademark "doo, doo, doos" to good effect and one can almost touch the urban claustrophobia and angst on the more reflective 'Inside'. While 'Chester Burnette' brings little new to the Petrols sonic palette its narrative of Inner-London racism justifies its inclusion.
The final track 'Creeping to the Cross' which deals with the equally inflammatory topic of religious hypocrisy is the LP's piece de resistance. Driven by Damon O'Neill's relentless bass line and Ciaran McLaughlin's drumming and looped vocal sample to great effect - this is the band at their most caustic and intense.
The inclusion of three re-mixes (and two B-sides - the melodious 'Soul deep' and less melodious 'Dance your ass off') show the band as the innovators they were and while the band failed to scale the heights their talent so richly deserved the re-release of 'Babble' ensures they won't be forgotten.
For more information on That Petrol Emotion check out: http://home.c2i.net/esmark/tpe.htm