After over six weeks of providing a rundown of 65 albums that I believe everyone should own we come to the final 10. In the days between now and Xmas I will give a run down of my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released. Hopefully I have given you some thoughts as to new albums to check out and I hope that the final 10 will have you rewriting your Christmas lists and picking up a few of these brilliant albums.
Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material
Inflammable Material is the 1979 debut album by the Northern Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers. It is arguably the best album the band ever released and it offers a no hold barred look at the grim realities of life in Northern Ireland with the songs containing themes of teenage boredom, sectarian violence, police oppression, and the realities of growing up in a province torn apart by sectarian violence, where the army where on the streets and on every street corner, where you couldn’t enter Belfast City centre without being subjected to numerous searches. The album paints a very bleak picture, it is an angry album, it bristles with resentment and a sense of injustice. As a kid growing up in Northern Ireland it was the soundtrack of my life. it is no exaggeration to say that this album changed my life.
I first heard the record in the Good Vibrations record store in Great Victoria Street, Belfast. The store was just a few minutes walk from my grandmothers house and from where my mother was living at the time. The shop and record label of the same name were owned by Terri Hooley, the Godfather of Irish punk music. I was in the ‘store’, a couple of upstairs rooms in a rundown building opposite the Europa Hotel when the album was put on. From the first few bars of ‘Suspect Device’ I was hooked. I couldn’t believe that this great record was by a group of guys from Northern Ireland. The impact of that should not be forgotten because at the time no-one was coming to play in the province, bands couldn’t get insurance and because of the bombings they couldn’t come without it.
Sadly for SLF they were on an independent label and, although the album was the first on an independent label to break into the top 20, they were up against the biggest names in punk. Bands who were big names, were on big labels and had big A&R budgets. Whilst SLF were championed by John Peel and highly regarded by their contemporaries they didn’t quite hit the heights their talent deserved.
Despite the bleak subject matter of many of the songs Inflammable Material was an album of hope, it was a call for change urging people to “grab it and change it, it’s yours” in what became their signature song “Alternative Ulster”. The song “Rough Trade” is about the band’s view of the music business as being dishonest but have since claimed it is not about the record label which happens to have the same name. State of Emergency & Law and Order railed against the oppressive policing in the province. Wasted Life, No More of That and Barbed Wire Love were urging people to break away from sectarianism and the paramilitary groups who had such a grip in Northern Ireland.
The bands cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Johnny Was’ is sublime and when that closes out you get hit by Alternative Ulster in a 1-2 thats is simply breathtaking. The album should have ended there but for some bizarre reason they added ‘Closed Groove’ a track completely out of keeping with the rest of the album. Inflammable Material is quite simply one of the greatest albums ever made, a remarkable pice of work and a remarkable piece of social history. If you don’t own this album you should hang your head in shame.
- 75 Essential Albums – #1 – Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
- 75 Essential Albums – #2 Van Morrison – No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
- 75 Essential Albums – #3 Stiff Little Fingers
- 75 Essential Albums – #4 The Levellers
- 75 Essential Albums – #5 Van Morrison – Into The Music
- 75 Essential Albums – #6 – The Clash – London Calling
- 75 Essential Albums – #7 Ramones
- 75 Essential Albums – #8 Nirvana – Nevermind
- 75 Essential Albums – #9 Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
- 75 Essential Albums – #10 RedHot Chili Peppers – Californication
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