Limerick man Niall Quinn’s presence on the Irish scene stretches back to the late Eighties, both as one-time frontman of a fledgling incarnation of The Cranberries (The Cranberry Saw Us) and as drummer for The Hitchers. The latter band gained some notoriety when their single Strachan appeared on The BBC; after two albums and a Peel session, The Hitchers disbanded in 2001 with Quinn going on to form The Pennywhores.
With Theme Tune Boy Quinn has turned to an all-out fun, power pop angle not a million miles away from Weezer. Vinyl crackles, and opening stomp Twentyfortyeight seems a raucous example of Quinn’s claim later in the album that “…all my songs are drinking songs” Posteenager sees Quinn “all revved up and ready to go”, power chords and distortion channelling The Ramones via QOTSA. The singer has a knack for the unsentimental, with some cutting observations in Recess – “Nothing brings you down quite so hard/ As an autumnal scene on a birthday card/ So why keep them/ Why keep anything?”
Lyrics trip along thick and fast for the most part on ‘Return Of The Living Dead’. I’d Say It Gets Really Hard Being Right All The Time gives a two-finger salute to the subject of its ire. Our man is annoyed, but by the time the key change comes around the song has proved cathartic for all concerned – nothing like clearing the air. Wrap the sentiment in the album’s most infectious chorus and you’re onto a winner. Rose is fast, fleeting and giddy, then on Horrible Songs he’s “…just heard a song about wanking on a bus” Well now so have we.
Quinn’s wry words are dressed for the most part in rough’n’ready guitar and drum sprints, pulling back every once in a while and evoking the acerbic, tongue-in-cheek style of Stephen Merritt. The harmonica wails gently on a folksy and bittersweet Pissing Away The Summer, and No Where ambles along in a genial fashion musically, referencing Joe Jackson but bubbling with malice. A word of advice – don’t get caught up in the moment when Theme Tune Boy is around, lest ye be “…stabbed just as grievously as the guy who shouts out ‘Where?’ during Is She Really Going Out With Him?” This was not Joe Jackson’s intention, Theme Tune Boy.
The thunderous drums of One Way Conversation and the title track – another high point with its siren-like guitar intro and Theremin effect – lead us to the final, brief coda of Parting Salvo. Quinn here eases back one last time, bowing out on a blasé farewell. ‘Return Of The Living Dead’ has the tendency to come on like a list of (admittedly funny) grievances thematically, but if you’re going to have to listen to a rant, may it always be encased in collar-grabbing tunes like these.