Teenage Kicks: The Undertones

on January 01, 2001 by Charles Martin
The Ramones have a lot to answer for. When they toured the UK in 1975, they gave voice to the disheartened youngsters of the day and created the DIY ethic that was the center of what became punk rock. In London, the Sex Pistols were born as a result of that tour, and in war-torn Ireland, the Undertones were inspired to ignore the riots around them and start their own.

Legendary British DJ John Peel visits the town of Derry (much changed now, but with disturbing scars of its troubled past still evident) and speaks to the four active Undertones and former leader Feargal Sharkey (whose split from the band was amicable). The film's highlight is, oddly enough, not the requisite performance footage, old videos and interviews, but the remarkable and disturbing archival home movies of the divided Derry of the 1970s, when the bombs of the IRA and the military presence of the British destroyed any semblance of normal life there. From this wreckage, the Undertones constructed their own escape in the form of happy, catchy punk rock.

The film documents journey of the lads from Derry to European stardom and looks at how adversity often fosters art, and how hope can be the best weapon in a war. For those who missed out on the Undertones the first time around, the film is loaded with great '70s punk rock sights and sounds. As contemporaries of bands like the Sex Pistols and the Damned, the Undertones made a name for themselves as the voice of a new generation. Most of the kids who attend their live shows today (four original members plus a new lead singer began touring in 1999) won't understand the true significance of such upbeat tunes, but "Teenage Kicks" and its valuable history lesson manages to fill in the backstory on this band admirably.

Directed by Tom Collins

Written by Oren Moverman

Produced by Vinny Cunningham

No distributor set. Documentary.

Not yet rated

Running time: 72 min

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