Stiff Little Fingers
Inflammable Material (Rough Trade)
The Almighty and Black Star Riders (the latest incarnation of Thin Lizzy) frontman Ricky Warwick has a new solo album out. He sat down to tell us about his own favorite album.
Ricky Warwick: In 1979 I was 13 years old living in Belfast Northern Ireland. The country was in the grip of “the troubles” — sectarian violence, soldiers on the streets and paramilitary terrorism.
Like most kids my age I was increasingly immersing myself in music as a form of escapism, particularly punk rock. We all had an eye across the Irish Sea at the burgeoning UK scene that was ongoing… but hardly any of those bands would come over and play in Belfast due to the situation.
So… Northern Ireland created its own unique slice of punk rock n roll and suddenly many homegrown bands came to the fore. I bought Inflammable Material by Stiff Little Fingers on the strength of the band’s name, the album cover, and that they hailed from Belfast.
On hearing the opening track “ Suspect Device” my life would never be the same again. The nihilistic buzz saw guitar intro, then the opening line “Inflammable material planted in my head, it’s a suspect device that’s left two thousand dead,” delivered by Jake Burns, a man who obviously gargled razor blades and broken glass for breakfast every morning. The sound was pure nihilistic angst drenched in an optimism that things could and will change if we want them to. They were singing about my life, the harsh reality of an existence in Northern Ireland at that time, teenage boredom, sectarian violence, bigotry, and oppression.
Every song is an anthem played from the gut — the guitars willing you not to be taken for granted, not to put up with outdated rules and laws, but to speak out and grab your future by throat and change your own destiny.
The iconic guitar intro to “Alternative Ulster” is in my honest opinion one of the greatest rock & roll intros ever, a song that is a full-on statement of intent telling the listener that we (the kids) do matter and can have a brighter “no future!”
Inflammable Material gave me a voice in the darkness and inspires as much today as it did over 40 years ago. It really is, was and will continue to be a 33rpm revolution!
Ricky Warwick’s When Life was Hard and Fast album is out now. ❖