Stiff Little Fingers: No Going Back (Pledge Music)
It’s been ten years since SLF last released a studio album (2003’s Guitar and Drum). It’s been a long wait and, judging by how good No Going Back is, I wonder what we’ve missed in that time of studio inactivity. They have been touring though over the past few years – and if you haven’t been to see them then you’re missing out on great shows; like many first wave punk bands they have gotten second wind in their 50s. What else can an old punk rocker do but shout and scream to his dying day? And live they have tried out new songs like Liars Club and My Dark Places. SLF version 2014 includes original members Jake Burns (vocals and lead guitar) and Ali McMordie (bass), with Ian McCallum (rhythm guitar) and Steve Grantley (drums).
No Going Back has been financed through Pledge Music, presumably because no record label would stump up the money. Which just goes to show that accountants can’t measure artistic quality. SLF reached their Pledge target on the first day – who needs record companies? Punk DIY ethics in the internet age.
Lyrically SLF are as politically charged as ever and it’s a crying shame that nothing has changed since the 70s and 80s – indeed with queues for food banks growing and public sector wages frozen whilst politicians agree a massive wage rise for themselves, the inequality in the country is worse than it ever was. We need bands like SLF to put our anger into coherent words, whatever your opinions about preaching to the choir, it’s important that we know we aren’t alone in our horror at the world around us. They attack individual selfishness (I Just Care About Me), corporate greed (the brilliant Full Steam Backwards), politicians (Liars Club) the Catholic Church (Guilty As Sin – a beautiful, angry song about the child abuse scandal – suffer little children and by Christ they did), bigotry (One Man Island) and a personal song from Jake about his struggles with depression (My Dark Places). Musically it has the sound of Nobody’s Hero Fingers and is easily their best work since Go For It.
The album ends with When We Were Young. Jake tells a story of how he was sitting in a bar with Phil Lynott and they were both bemoaning how everybody was telling them they shouldn’t bother making records anymore, that nobody would be interested, a nd they relaised it was exactly what they were told when they were first starting out. No Going Back is a triumphant rigid digits two fingers up to those people. Buy it now.
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This article first appeared on Louder Than War. Photograph of SLF taken by the author at The Assembly, Leamington Spa, 23 March 2014