For the Punks
Remastered albums are nothing new in music. Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane, and many others have released remastered albums. However, the punk/hardcore scene is recent in this idea of remastering old albums. Groups like the Clash, and now the Stiff Little Fingers are trying to breathe new life into their previous releases. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t, as is the case with the Stiff Little Fingers.SLF needs no introduction. The Irish quartet plays a brand of punk in a similar vein to the Clash, with upbeat ska style and straight and fast street punk. Their song â€šÃ„ÃºSuspect Device,â€šÃ„Ã¹ even had a cameo in the music aficionado love story High Fidelity. Since 1977 they have been putting out records and touring, even with multiple member changes throughout their history.
The four remastered albums, Inflammable Material (1979), Nobodyâ€šÃ„Ã´s Heroes (1980), Hanx! (1980),and Go For It (1981) span the first few years of SLF, showing their change from a punk band to a more New Wave styled group. Each album has bonus tracks, as well as portions of an interview with front man Jake Burns, which, to any big Stiff Little Fingers fan will be a treat.
Remastering an album can be a tricky process. If not done well it could wind up overpowering certain instruments and underwhelming other portions that are easier to hear on the older recordings (the Misfits unreleased 12 Hits From Hell is a good example of this, Bobby Steeleâ€šÃ„Ã´s guitar parts are toned down a lot more than they were originally).
Some of the albums benefit from it, while others feel antiquated, remastering or no. Their first release, Inflammable Material, sounds intense, with sharp guitars, clearer vocals and an overall better sound. If you have donâ€šÃ„Ã´t own any Stiff Little Fingers albums, or you have an old battered tape a friend gave you years ago, this version is worth the price.
Nobodyâ€šÃ„Ã´s Heroes is worthwhile as well. As their second release, Heroes was slightly more refined, but still had the attitude and style of their first album. Tracks like â€šÃ„ÃºGotta Getawayâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºNobodyâ€šÃ„Ã´s Heroâ€šÃ„Ã¹ sound impressive, giving a much needed update to these notable tunes.
Stiff Little Fingerâ€šÃ„Ã´s first live album Hanx!, sounds too sterile, much like a studio album. Granted, there is the slight echo from the microphones, and the crowd cheering in between songs. Other than that, these songs donâ€šÃ„Ã´t have much discerning them from their studio counterparts, excluding the Bob Marley cover â€šÃ„ÃºJohnny Was,â€šÃ„Ã¹ which is a great rendition of this classic tune. Unless you are a huge Stiff Little Fingers fan, this album can be pretty much skipped.
The worst of these four is Go For It. While the other albums, even Hanx! sound timeless and powerful, Go For It is stuck in an 80â€šÃ„Ã´s timewarp of ska inspiration and new wave. Most of the tracks sound dated and cheesy, much like listening to every other song by A-Ha except â€šÃ„ÃºTake On Me.â€šÃ„Ã¹
The biggest issue noticed with these remastered albums is in the artwork. Instead of giving us new art, lyric sheets that actually match what Jake Burns is singing, and other goodies, all we get is a small amount of text at the beginning of Go For It by Alan Parker, explaining how this is his favorite SLF album. Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s a shame considering how much they could have done with artwork, photos, and extensive liner notes.
As previously said, Inflammable Material and Nobodyâ€šÃ„Ã´s Heroes are timeless albums everyone should own, so why not purchase them in this new version with bonus tracks on each to boot? Hanx! isnâ€šÃ„Ã´t terrible, but is definitely more geared to the punk fan who needs every Stiff Little Fingers album. Go for It is an 80â€šÃ„Ã´s throwback, which can be avoided unless one is a huge ska and new wave fan.
Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s good to see bands from the 70â€šÃ„Ã´s and 80â€šÃ„Ã´s punk movement getting the kind of attention they deserve. It makes sense with the new wave of punk that is out these days, allowing newcomers a simple way to get out of print albums, or ones previously having quality that was exceedingly lackluster. Hopefully more bands and labels will take this cue and begin remastering hard to find vinyl releases that are all but impossible to find.