With the plaudits received for latest studio album ‘No Going Back’ still ringing in their ears, Stiff Little Fingers are mining a rich vein of form. No better time then to release a live celebration of what has become a time-honoured tradition for the last few decades. March 17th sees the vast majority of major towns and cities turning green to celebrate Paddy’s Day. Bars overflow with comedy hats and beards, and if you live in a city with a student population, then it’s best to be avoided. In Glasgow though, it means one thing, Stiff Little Fingers are in town and The ‘Barras will be heaving. 26 consecutive years the infamous/famous (delete as appropriate) Barrowland Ballroom has played host to the Belfast punk icons, and thankfully last year’s 25th was recorded and filmed. The resulting multimedia bundle, ‘Best Served Loud – Live At Barrowland’, is now available from the nice folks at Ear Music on CD, vinyl, DVD… and for those with big TV’s, in glorious Hi-Def. Watch in amazement, and chortle, as security put in the shift to end all shifts, all in the glorious surroundings of the most atmospheric venue you will ever set foot in.
Originally released in 2014, ‘No Going Back’ has recently received a spruce up in the shape of an extended reissue. ‘Best Served Loud’ is sparse on tracks from it, which is a shame, as it’s a fantastic album, ‘Trail Of Tears’ and ‘Liars Club’ just two of many standout tracks missing, but ‘When We Were Young’, ‘Guilty As Sin’ and ‘My Dark Places’ make welcome appearances. The latter, which deals with frontman Jake Burns’ battle with depression, is especially poignant, as Burns often describes it as a “self help guide”. When long term fans pile in for the night, they want the classics, which is understandable as Stiff Little Fingers have ’em in abundance. From the opening strains of ‘Go For It’ (audience participation mandatory), through ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers And Reggae’ and ‘Nobody’s Hero’, before finishing on the one-two knockout punch of ‘Gotta Getaway’ and ‘Alternative Ulster’. This is a raw and uncompromising romp through the back catalogue of one of the top three punk bands of all time. The sight and sound of a band still relevant 40 years after they began. Still defiant, and with something to say, ‘Best Served Loud’ is a cracking piece of history.
Available now through Ear Music
Review: Dave Stott