A taut, explosive Belfast-based punk band, Stiff Little Fingers (named after a Vibrators song) had the dubious distinction of being referred to as "The Irish Clash." What must have seemed like a compliment at the time did little to help their career, only because it made comparisons between the two bands inevitable. Granted, there were many similarities: both bands debuted playing revved-up late-'70s punk rock, were politically inclined, featured pissed-off lead singers, had a love for reggae, and possessed a near-palpable sense of isolation and desperation. But as we all know, the Clash offered complexity, panache, and a consistently breathtaking body of work. Stiff Little Fingers, on the other hand, were simply a very good punk rock band. With sandpaper-throated frontman Jake Burns leading the way, SLF did release an auspicious, if badly produced, debut album, Inflammable Material, that featured the band's two best songs, "Alternative Ulster" and "Suspect Device." Both were passionate, ferocious songs dealing with the harsh, deadly realities of growing up in the middle of two decades of Northern Ireland's violence. These songs thrust SLF into the limelight and got them loads of enthusiastic press, which led to a contract with the decidedly anti-punk Chrysalis label in 1980. After that, SLF released a handful of pretty good records (including a terrific live album, Hanx), but their unregenerate fast and loud punk style started to sound stale. In 1982, the band released their most non-punk record (Now Then...), which was greeted by general apathy. In a musical rut, dogged by the facile Clash comparisons, and with punk rock running out of steam, Burns pulled the plug on SLF. Sadly, the band's breakup lasted only five years. After a string of forgettable solo singles and a stint as a BBC Radio producer, Burns, hoping to cash in on punk nostalgia, re-formed SLF (with another aging punk rocker, ex-Jam bassist Bruce Foxton) in 1987, and released a bunch of lousy (mostly live) records for the rest of the millennium. ~ John DouganPortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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