The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


That Petrol Emotion (live in Spirit Store, Dundalk)

Review Snapshot:  After a fourteen year break, the temporarily reformed That Petrol Emotion, in front of a capacity audience of one hundred and ten, show that they can still suck diesel.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
I've been feeling old and I don't really like it. First off, about a month ago, the nice man on Phantom FM played The Smiths' That Petrol Emotion"William It Was Really Nothing" and then, in a cheery voice that lacked even the merest hint of the necessary gravitas, announced that it first saw the light of day twenty four years ago that very week. I nearly crashed the blummin' car into the wife's planters. Twenty four years!? Are you sure it wasn't only yesterday? And Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now.

Then came the news that, after a fourteen year break, the marvellous That Petrol Emotion were to reform. I remember them first time round too. Those sweaty nights in The New Inn and The Tivoli and The Olympic Ballroom, jumping around like a loon, a selection of my mammy's jumpers tied around my waist, sweating buckets and not a care in the world. Despite the fact that my jumping around like a loon days ended on or about the day that I realised that I could no longer touch my knees, this was one reunion that was not to be missed.

As soon as the band emerge from the Spirit Store's broom cupboard of a dressing room, it's immediately clear that singer Steve Mack has entered into some kind of Faustian pact which promises old Lucifer god knows what, blowjobs and scratchcards probably, if my crumbling body can be persuaded to do all the aging on his behalf. Not for him the middle aged frustrations of finding clothes that look great on the hanger but won't go over your stomach - Mack is as lean as he appears in the images I can just about dredge up from my sepia tinged memory banks. He needs to be, given the ferocity of what follows.

A frequently cited reason for The Petrols' failure to achieve a chart position higher than about a hundred and twelve is that old chestnut – "They were ahead of their time". I never paid much heed to that one back in the day but listening to them now, as the drums shake the room and guitars shred wallpaper and worry the rogue Christmas decorations that still hang from the ceiling in August, I have to concede that there may be something in that. These songs sound as fresh and as vital as they did on the day they were conceived.

And so, with former member and current Undertone John O'Neill looking proudly on, little brother Damien and Co hit the stage running, with a blistering, excoriating version of Chemicrazy's "Blue 2 Black". Ciaran McLaughlin's drums are almost loud enough to signal the start of the one hundred metres Olympic final on the other side of the world, while the guitars square up to one another in a rowdy embrace, like they've been placed in a barrel and pushed off a cliff. Then it's "Gnaw Mark", from the same album, which chugs along on a riffboat of guitars, with an insistent and urgent groove that injects dance potion into the asses of all present.

An early highlight is Manic Pop Thrills' "It's A Good Thing" and indeed it is, while "Big Decision", immediately afterward, has the older and wiser me, who now knows what Health and Safety means, worrying that the bouncing crowd are all going to end up in the laps of the drinkers in the pub downstairs. A few songs later, "Sensitize" reminds me of just how old I am when I turn to my mobile to play it to my wife, whose favourite Petrols' song it is, and discover, with a mixture of amusement and despair, that apart from "Home", the only other entries in my phonebook for that letter are "Health Board" and "Hernia Doc". I nearly give myself another rupture dancing to it. The tiny venue is now a sauna, especially when the closing trio of "Hey Venus", "Abandon" and "Scumsurfin'" have scorched the room, and there are more mile wide smiles than at The Rose of Tralee.

A triumph, then. And you can put in your own references to setting fire to things, flammability and how bright their flame burns here.

Michael O'Hara

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