Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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That Petrol Emotion

  • Manic Pop Thrill [Demon, 1986] A-
  • Babble [Polydor, 1987] A-
  • End of the Millennium Psychosis Blues [Virgin, 1988] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Manic Pop Thrill [Demon, 1986]
With shrieking guitar racing thumpity bass racing headlong drums to the blessed dreamy interludes, this professional Irish garage band exploits an American mode too often neglected over there--they're psychedelic punks who don't know one's supposed to preclude the other. Which doesn't mean they emulate the Count Five, or the Fleshtones either. Having absorbed and assumed twenty more years of noise, they define a sizable new piece of aural turf both conceptually and technically. And through the haze of desperate imagery you sense that their sound and fury signify. A-

Babble [Polydor, 1987]
Although I'm a known sucker for fast guitar bands, I've turned down hundreds that shall remain nameless. So why do I love these guys? Specifying comes as hard to me as their originality comes easy to them. Except in snatches I can't understand the words, which apparently only add up to snatches anyway. From the press packet I gather that their politics are no more than you'd expect from Northern Ireland, not enough to win me over. And however I shuffle perfectly applicable terms like "punk" and "pop," they just won't form a suitable pigeonhole. One thing I notice: in addition to the tunes, which can't put bored music over any more, they're given to scalar guitar hooks that remind me of nothing so much as art-rock ostinatos. In theory, I hate this device. But here it's just another token of smart, untrammeled enthusiasm. A-

End of the Millennium Psychosis Blues [Virgin, 1988]
So what happened to these guys? I know, they depunkified, but just because they seem to think funk has something to do with Tower of Power is no reason to take them off the guest list. Read the lyric sheet--if anything, they've grown in wisdom. Although if you didn't read the lyric sheet you'd never notice. That's what happened. B