Sunday, 3 February 2013

Top 102 Albums. No 57. Babble

 Top 102 Albums. No 57 
Babble - That Petrol Emotion

First there was the rumour that the O'Neill brothers were together again. Then there was Keen, and quite possibly my favourite band name, That Petrol Emotion which paid its respects at one and the same time to improvised devices and incendiary passions. The first time I saw them the tension was generated by a rump of Undertones fans who just kept on calling for Teenage Kicks. But it was clear that this was a very different band to The Undertones, darker, murkier, angrier with Pere Ubu the closest thing to a benchmark. They regularly played Ubu's Non Alignment Pact, a song that would form part of The Knocking Shop's small repetoire of covers*.

I couldn't wait for an album and Manic Pop Thrill hit the spot, a freewheeling, exciting record that showed that the O'Neill's were firing on all cylinders again. I thought long and hard about selecting it for this list but gradually Babble edged it out. Babble has a thicker punchier sound and big beats that seemed set to push The Petrols into the rock aristocracy. However their singles all seemed to stall just outside the Top Forty and there were rumours of blacklisting by the BBC, all of which referred to the 'infomercials' on their records about issues such as internment.

I saw them live in London in 1988 (I think) supported by an incendiary, earsplitting Young Gods and it was one of the greatest concerts that I ever attended.

I remember reading somewhere that Damian O'Neill regretted that the lyrics of It's Gonna Happen, written about the Hunger Strikes, weren't clearer. This time they made politics a big part of what they were about. There were echoes of The MC5 in their calls to arms, political friction adding an extra edge to their thrilling pop/rock mutations. But sharing information about political inequality in Northern Ireland was seen at the time (and still is by many) as being the same as advocating terrorism. Hopefully most of us have learnt the errors of this viewpoint, which allows terrorists to own resistance, and pushes many towards violence who would be happier with other forms of resistance.

But the music survives all this meta information. Influences included Beefheart, Can, the above mentioned Pere Ubu, Africa Bambata and even The Beatles. They wore these influences on their sleeves, covers always playing a part in their concerts. The same infatuation with music and sound which made Teenage Kicks the almost perfect encapsulation of garage rock drove them to try to find a way to synthesise their influences into a sound big and exciting enough to pay proper tribute to those influences. They did. More people should be paying tribute to them.

And for pig iron here are a few of their cover versions from YouTube, and their medley of Helter Skelter/Loose from their final concert, released on the live album Final Flame.

*The Knocking Shop were a band who featured my own small skirmish with rock music.


  1. If I was doing singles then biG decision would be in there. I also love cellophane which I think came later.

    1. Yes Cellophane is on the following album. Genius Move was my favourite of their singles, despite (or maybe because of) its huge debt to Pere Ubu.

  2. Here I sit, rug on lap; feeling a little aged.
    Just been hit in the face with a squash racket and admiring myself for not "going down" although still feel a little woozy. And then this. I vaguely remember this on a cassette that also involved my (then stablemates on Zomba) with Jake's 'Stiff Little Fingers'. Too much shouting and pointing for me then and I fear now. I remember St John Peel proclaiming 'Teenage Kicks' the greatest record ever made and drop kicking my tranny radio across the dormitory. I never missed my target in those days and Smithers Jnr still bears the scar; as it seems I will from todays' gyrations.
    Pain! It fucking hurts...

    1. Pain I understand, have been playing football for the last few months but ended up playing yesterday and today which my body is not happy with. (We're not talking bells and whistles or 90 mins or anything) but it still hurts. Playing four a side today and one of our players kept saying give and go, give and go and every joint and muscle in my body was screaming go in goals, go in goals.
      Always preferred Jimmy Jimmy to Teenage Kicks.

  3. Four a side?
    Rush Goaly?
    Skins v Shirts
    It's all flooding back...
    Tried cricket recently.
    The ground got really hard and NO-ONE shares their 'box' anymore.
    What's that all about?