The power of positive touching

H-Y-P, I'm hypnotised! I've checked the relevant source and their advice is simple: sit down, relax and cancell all other engagements. The UNDERTONES have returned triumphant.

Where "Hypnotised", on its release, seemed like a creative peak for the pop-plus preparations of The Undertones, it can now be seen as merely the end of a first giddy phase. What with attention being focussed until very recently on the band's legal entanglement with their former label Sire Records, there was really no indication available that, all the while, The 'Tones were honing a body of material which would prove to be as stunning and inventie as "Positive Touch".

Apart from being the album which logs the travels of an Undertones band going where no other Undertones band has gone before, "Positive Touch" also serves as a resoundingly victorious response to suggestions that the band are over the hill.

"Positive Touch" also marks a maturing of the Undertone world view - while the occasional song such as "His Good Looking Girlfriend" recalls the more simplistic set-pieces of yesterda-year, the majority of the album is noticeably bereft of references to first cousins, Mars Bars and Subbuteo. The undertones have grown up in public!

More immediatly though, it's the sheer breadth of musical versatility - both stylistically and instrumentally - which grabs the listener's attention.

"Fascination" and "Juile Ocean", the opening two tracks, offer some hint of the scope of the album, the former employing a belligerent drum tatto and backing vocals nicked from "Stranded In The Jungle", while the latter is a beautifully haunting guitar vignette with Feargal's vocal on the chorus awash with echo.

Surprise follows delicious surprise. "Life's Too Easy" places a jazzy bass-line alongside a Bo Diddley beat and stills finds time for a towering refrain of "Here it comes" which lodges in themind on first hearing.

Lyrically, the song also represents the bands's first really direct comment on the Northern Ireland situation, but it's a comment born of perssonnal experience of the random terror rather than an attempt at striking some kind of conclusive overview. It simply says: we had to learn to live with fear while those outside the province might carp and complain at far lesser evils. It's not a novel thought and certainly not an especially profound one, but it is heart-felt and well articulated. In a more general sense, the song, taken as a complete creation, highlights what seems to be a fundamental aim of the album - to rid the band of the stereotype image they created of themselves in the past and one which was, of course, happily embellished by all sections of the media.

That The 'Tones have achieved this, without sacrificing their transcendental pop appeal, is just one of "Positive touch" many successes.

Check the title-track for its novel (for The 'Tones) use of bottleneck-guitar, and its widly successful Caribbean textures. Check the single "It's Going To Happen", a brilliant mating of Teardrop-like brass and vigorous new pop. Check "When Saturday Comes" which searches out and then re-locates the prime rules of pop-psychedelia, as they were writ by Arthur Lee and Love. Check "Hanna Don't" for a compassionate portrayal of one of life's losers set to a marvellously eclectic soundtrack. Check... well look, they even manage an enterprising re-write of "Sweet Jane" in "I Don't Know". What more do you need to know?

"Positive Touch" is just that. Look to your laurels ye Teardrops and Atzec Camera. The Undertones are back in business and the only way they'll be ignored now, is through sheer bad taste. (Liam Mackey)

Chronique du single "It's going to happen"

Utterly and totally magnificient. A wonderful slice of decorous and sophisticated pop, unbelievably complex and amusing, swirling with Feargal's classic tones and a lyric so intelligent that the boys must have been taking an Open University course on the sly. This record deserves to be N°1 for the entire months of June and July not only because of its peachyness but also for the fact that it takes the sort of risks which pop music usually steers clear of. I love it. Feargal should be canonised; Have they been saying the best stuff for when they got shot of Seymour? Even the B-side is the sort of song to leave home for.