Each week, we’ll take a retrospective look at albums we think are either criminally underrated or woefully overrated, and why they actually rock/suck.
This week, we’re revisiting another forgotten classic: Chemicrazy, the fourth album from the Northern Irish indie rock group That Petrol Emotion (featuring ex-members of the pop-punk legends The Undertones). While not as commercially successful as their previous efforts, this album is easily matched or better than their overall collection in terms of quality.
Chemicrazy, released in 1990, sees the group moving further away from the noise-pop of their first album and trying their hand at a number of different sounds, all of which are pulled off with great success. The opening track, ‘Hey Venus’ is an upbeat and brilliantly catchy pop-rock tune with some great vocals by American singer Steve Mack, although the vocals on ‘Sensitize’ might be even better. It goes to show just how much of a difference it makes when you have a singer as good as the band.
As well as the huge pop influences, the chunky bass in ‘Blue to Black’ sees the group experimenting with funk, where as ‘Scum Surfin’ is a noise-pop guitar workout that’s just as good as anything on their debut album. ‘Another Day’ slips into something a bit more unashamedly radio-friendly, but contains enough high-tempo guitar to pull it off.
Strangely, the second side of the album is actually even better than the first. Not only does it have ‘Scum Surfin’ (see above), the new-wave blues of ‘Tingle’ is one of rock music’s less embarrassing love songs and ‘Head Staggered’ should have been on every college radio station in the world. And to add the cherry to this (already damn impressive) cake, it has two gorgeous ballads in ‘Compulsion’ and ‘Sweet Shiver Burn’ – the pretty and refined former evoking Celtic folk and the laJOn tter possibly being one of the most moving songs ever written by a guitar band.
Considering the success and the influence of The Undertones, it really is amazing that That Petrol Emotion didn’t experience more success. But if everything good was immediately successful, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to uncover gems like this one.