Negative Noise

The most significiant and at the same time the most disturbing thing about this album is the change it denotes. There is no 'sense of' change about it, rather it's an uncouth, forced and overly predictable clause-ib-a-contract. It had to happen, and that's just what's wrong with it.

The undertones' necessary metamorohosis from raw (business) recruits to fully fledged 'company men' with company troubles, the works, to prove it, is in terms of human growth wholly admirable - but a complete disaster for the Undertones' music, as "Positive Touch" proves. While the world around them has changed, their song-writin hasn't kept up the pace. What's left is a second-hand trite innocence of lyricism, their only wondrous trademark, and a fast deterioratong ability with a Good Song.

"Positive Touch" is all ineluctable third-album ersatz 'new direction', with no soul or heart in it at all. On an obvious level it's bravel Hey, psychedelic Undertones! And no guitars anymore! And a new sadness! And that last one's the most interesting of all the attempted spiels. The overwhelming sadness of "Positive Touch" would be fine and logical in a comic strip continuation of our heroes' career - that if only it didn't just imply a massive real-life disillusionment with the music making process within the Undertones. The innocence is gone for ever, boys. Admit it!

Every note on this album's in the right place. But the Undertones' hearts aren't. Half the songs are throwaways, hopeless cases, boozy bar-room strolls round Feargal's voice, little whimsies with little point that is even stretching the cartoon image a bit far. They try everything but the Roger Becharian-produced kitchen-sink, with trumpets, muchpiano, even a totally mad slide-guitar on the title track. The effect is an album lacking a single spark of freshness, content now to employ studio trickery for echoes of the inspiration and the naturalness of the past-time halcyon days.

Even the way they insist on making opaque in-joke meals of their sleeves and sleeve credits seems to reflect the clsing-in of the music it's dissatisfaction with itself. I think the Undertones, if they were genuinely courageous, would never make another album again. Instead they'd concentrate on singles, getting the spark back, perhaps above all, setting the spark free again. "Positive Touch" has the feeling of a band well and truly strangled by the business, whit its towering shadow ever behind them.

There isn't one track here that any self-respecting independent like (it so happens) Postcard would even consider putting out as a single. Ironic, seeing much of the album hints at the rougher, mellower Orange Juice, whom Undertones have brought on tour with them. That's the criteria the Undertones have to go against, and they are not faring at all well.

"Positive Touch" is a company album. A company joke. A limp, self-doubtful attempt at continuing a career in show business. I vaguely hate its would-be-boys-together youthfulness (when it is very old), I detest its unconscious total lethargy, but nightmare! I understand it. It's predictable diminishing of a natural creative essence is deplorably understandable.

Teenage dreams are hard to find and even harder to flee from. Still

Dave McCullough