There are those who would disagree vehemently, but in my estimation The Undertones were Ireland's best rock band ever. Roaring out of the Northern Ireland city of Derry in 1976, The Undertones fused speedy, loud Ramones-inspired walls-of-guitar racket with irresistible '60s pop hooks, with just a touch of mid-'70s glam rock for good measure. With the singular tenor vocals of frontman Feargal Sharkey making them instantaneously recognizable, Undertones songs tended to eschew punk vitriol for songs about teenage love, girls, snotty cousins, and summertime life's simple joys (and pains). No more succinct a summation of their style, wit, and power can be found than on their out-of-print debut EP, Teenage Kicks, released in 1978 on the Belfast indie label Good Vibrations. A record of startling ebullience, the songs (many of which showed up on their eponymous debut album) sound as exhilarating today as they did when they were recorded.
However, The Undertones did not go into creative stasis with their winning punk-pop and simply replicate a proven formula over and over. As they grew as musicians, so did their albums change, incorporating some of the Tamla/Motown soul music they loved as kids. As a live band, they were tremendous; just ask anyone who saw them opening for the Clash in the late '70s. Sadly, The Undertones' story ended far too quickly. Growing up meant too much change too fast, and by the time they released their mediocre fourth album, restlessness and "musical differences" were splitting them apart. Sharkey went off to a short-lived solo career, while the guitar-playing O'Neill brothers put together the politically charged That Petrol Emotion. In the late '80s, there were whispers of a reunion which didn't occur, much to the relief of those who preferred The Undertones' legacy to remain unsullied. ~ John Dougan, All Music Guide