The Blades sharply-shot three-minute pop songs will forever be preferable to many of their contemporaries, Bono included. Even though Paul Clearly’s songs drip with desperate imagery from “black and white and grey” ’80s Dublin, they are fondly remembered as the unsung heroes of Irish powerpop.
There is a yearning for their heyday among a gathering mods who loved them at the time and even some Fred Perry decked youngsters who have just come on the scene. Coupled with Tamla Mowtown sensibilites and Cleary’s obvious debt to Paul Weller and Buddy Holly, this live album is a timely reminder of an Irish band long-forgotten in the roll-call of greats from this island.
Cleary could quite rightly lay claim to have written more instant classics than U2 and Phil Lynott put together, the difference being there was nothing remotely showbiz about the Blades. They were the band for the everyman living from week-to-week and living clean under difficult circumstances. It never quite took off for them as nu-wave gave way to tacky celebrity and stadium rawk.
Downmarket, Hot For You, Tne Bride Wore White, The Last Man in Europe and Animation still crackle with youthful bluster and sadness, the Blades were always a band that could deliver a quick-fire ripper and bring it back down with a slow set. The lineup here – augmented by a brass section that catapults the songs beyond the already superbly produced orginals – have obviously not had their energy and skill dampened by years in exile, during which Cleary wrote jingles for game shows, perish the thought.
This is the real ‘Commitments’ and it’s a damn sight more real and authentic than Roddy Doyle’s creation. The only dissapointment here for Blades fans will be the omission of Some People Smile, possibly the greatest thing Cleary put his name to – his version on The Late Late Show from 1982 still resonates.
This is a band that needed to reunite if only to tie up loose ends and take some of the acclaim they missed out on the first tine around. With Cleary’s solo album from the last decade the only new material from him in decades, it’s about time for something fresh and this live album is surely a stepping stone toward that.