Sure, this week’s Mystery Date was an easy one: that was Stiff Little Fingers, doing the folk song “Love of the Common People,” from their 1982 initial farewell album, Here Now… Many of you guessed this if you stuck around long enough for singer Jake Burns to fall into his typical “Joe Strummer on steroids” delivery. I am only disappointed that Townsman mwall didn’t chime in on this date. For a guy with strong, spartan tastes in music, he’s always surprised me by his top-to-bottom love for the band’s debut, Inflammable Material, an album I’ve always wanted to like more than I ever can beyond the amazing “Suspect Device” and “Alternative Ulster.” I was curious to hear his take on this recording—and maybe even acknowledge that I’d long ago seen beyond the facade of this band and peered into the mediocrity of their proto-Green Day track. “Brother,” I hoped he’d say, “I’ve got to give it to you for calling bullshit on these guys for all those years.”
I remember Townsman andyr or chickenfrank owning this album way back when and me thinking it was a “pretty good change of pace” for the band, the same way I thought The Ramones‘ poppy Pleasant Dreams was a welcome and long-overdue offspeed pitch to their limited repertoire. Over the years I rarely listened to their copy of that album again, but I continued to tell myself they had something extra in their tiny creative satchel. The other day I revisited this album, and boy was it lame. It sounded like they started listening to all the subpar Jam albums from the end of their run and trying to ape Weller’s moves rather than The Clash‘s.
There was no way they could have kept up with aping Clash records after Give ‘Em Enough Rope, so poor-man’s Jam was probably a reasonable career option. However, all the things that always bugged me about most of their first two albums—the blatant political pose, the complete lack of originality and/or humor, and especially the sense that “Shoot, given a manager and a producer my high school band could have made a record as mediocre as Nobody’s Heroes!”—remained. In retrospect, it’s no Pleasant Dreams.
I have another song from this album that I’d like to share with you, but it’s on my work computer at the moment. I’m too tired (and a little bummed, thanks to my Phillies losing tonight) to fire up that computer, and I’m off to a work trip to NYC all day tomorrow followed by an evening up there with Bryan Ferry, so the horn-driven, late-period “soulful” Jam-style number will have to wait. Meanwhile, enjoy the following live performance of another track from that album.