The Undertones – Hypnotised

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

At one point, I owned all four original Undertones albums. The Sin of Pride, which some people rate as the best Undertones album, is at a minimum a well-done Motown pastiche, but honestly, Feargal Sharkey does not have the voice for soul. I haven’t yet relistened to Positive Touch. I should probably also check out early That Petrol Emotion.

What I Think of This Album

The Undertones might have mocked themselves and the music press simultaneously with lead track “More Songs About Chocolate and Girls” (which acknowledges “It’s not so easy knowing they’ll be heard / A lot less time but a lot more care”), but that was ultimately a fakeout. Hypnotised is not a retread of the debut – that would have been a sucker’s move, because the refreshing excitement of The Undertones could not have been duplicated. Rather, the band has evolved into an excellent power-pop outfit.

They branch out a bit musically this time, with many songs that would have seemed out of place on the first album. The title track, for instance, is darker and instead of pop-punk is more like pop-postpunk (imagine Howard Devoto fronting The Rezillos), and the automaton backing vocals and tense guitar on “Boys Will Be Boys” show that the band could adopt a colder, more taut aesthetic.

I swear that “See That Girl” has a Herman’s Hermits influence, but at any rate features some unexpected acoustic guitar work and lyrics that suggested concerns beyond candy and girls (“I wake up screaming in the middle of something wrong”). “The Way Girls Talk” is a vulnerable piece that Morrissey undoubtedly studied in his youth, with a neat little guitar riff, and the band gets even sadder on gentle, ‘60’s influenced “Wednesday Week.” There is a glammy stomp behind driving “Hard Luck,” and “Tearproof” may have been the most musically complex song they had attempted to date.

Granted, “Whizz Kids” and the fantastic “Nine Times Out of Ten” are throwbacks, as is the hilarious “My Perfect Cousin,” but serial killer-themed (and somehow, thoroughly enjoyable) “There Goes Norman” is something entirely new. The cover of “Under the Boardwalk” starts out sounding like a horrible mistake, but Feargal Sharkey pulls off a miracle and ends up doing a creditable job. Another great Undertones album, and this time with even more democratic songwriting contributions.

My Rykodisc reissue gifts five additional tracks, including showstopper single “You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It?),” and some B-sides (with ‘50’s flavored rave-up “I Told You So” being the best of the bunch).

There is also a slight possibility that “More Songs About Chocolate and Girls” was a nod to the Talking Heads’ More Songs About Buildings and Food.

Roger Béchirian sat in the producer’s chair again.

The Best Thing About This Album

“There Goes Norman” is as catchy as it is disturbing.

Release Date

April, 1980 (original); 1994 (reissue)

The Cover Art

This is so incredibly stupid that I really like it. This is the band’s rhythm section at a restaurant in New York. The fucking lobster bibs. Hahahahahahaha.

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