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Stiff Little Fingers: No Going Back

Album Review

Ulster punk vets confound chronology.

Once upon a time SLF were punk’s last great fiery belch, songs of Northern Irish rage laid out over huge fuzzy rails of guitar and Jake Burns’s furious bark. Commercial success saw their lyrical themes broaden and their tunes become more tuneful, but time never dimmed their passionate, Clash-derived forcefulness.

No Going Back, their tenth album and first in 11 years, is no exception. From the opening track Liars Club to self-explanatory (and appropriately old-school) When We Were Young, No Going Back achieves the classic Stiff Little Fingers trick of echoing the melodic and powerful rock of, say, Thin Lizzy, without resorting to the power-chord clichés of their contemporaries. 

There’s emotional openness on My Dark Places, a Irish folk-style change of texture on Guilty As Sin, and frequent archetypal SLF venting of spleen on Full Steam Backwards and I Just Care About Me. If at times you marvel at their ability, some 35 years on, to still sound like their younger selves, remember that nobody else ever managed it.

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