This may be sacrilege to some, but I must confess that I’ve never really cared for Stiff Little Fingers all that much. Despite some undeniably infectious politically-charged anthems, SLF for me belong mainly to the school of punk for beer-bellied blokes to get misty-eyed about after a few Stellas at the local (I won’t say Harps of course), and I just can’t get that excited about ’em.
Despite its title, the album’s opener Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae stays very much within rock territory, and it isn’t until track 4 that the barrel-chested barrage abates a little and the dready fringe is approached.
An earnest hymn to internalised anger, The Only One evokes some of the reggae outings of The Clash and The Carpettes, though eschewing the subtleties of the former in favour of big guitar choruses and a galloping pace. The result is something altogether scrappier than SLF’s usual tight riffing, and The Only One is mighty appealing for it.
Safe As Houses, while returning to the sonic comfort of almost full-blown rock-punk form, still retains the awkwardly skanking naiveté of The Only One, though it’s a better song overall. Anthems are what SLF do best, and this is no exception.
Even more interesting is the track’s lyrical theme – a kick against the acceptance of domesticity which considers both male and female perspectives on an equal plain. Probably wouldn’t catch The Stranglers doing that…