- 04 Sep 21
Maybe I'm No Ordinary Fool: A Great Irish Work Of Art Gets Its Due.
You can insert your own preference here but much like, say, Ghostown by The Radiators, Whipping Boy’s Heartworm is one of those Irish rock n’ roll albums that should really be celebrated the world over.
Originally released in 1995, it bothered a fair few cash registers here but failed to catch on anywhere else. What might have been? Colm O’Callaghan’s excellent sleeve notes talk about the possibility of an American tour supporting Stabbing Westward, which the band blew off to go out with Lour Reed in Europe – well, you would, wouldn’t you? – but, at this remove, it looks like Heartworm just arrived at the wrong time. Front man Fearghal McKee talked it up as a boot in the face of the bullshit of Britpop and it certainly felt more real than the knees-up-mother-brown cockney claptrap or the mad for it Slade-isms emanating from England’s green and pleasant land.
Whatever about might’ve and could’ve, Heartworm’s power hasn’t dimmed in the intervening years. It’s all vital, and this welcome reissue – which caught a load of us on the hop by instantly selling out its first vinyl pressing – adds a worthwhile second disc of B-sides, demos, and live tracks, but it’s the brilliant songs on the original record that are the meat of this matter.
“She’s the air I breathe, she’s the only one for me, now and always”, McKee sounds on the wrong side of obsession as he declares his love over the buzzsaw guitars, Colm Hassett's snare shuffle, and Myles McDonnell's Hooky bass that emerge from that beautiful opening violin on ‘Twinkle’ with Paul Page’s guitar solo saying it all with a wall of noise. The shock of the domestic violence in the possibly Bono-baiting - although all concerned deny it - ‘We Don’t Need Nobody Else’ which has a chorus that could pull people back from the ledge, and if you were what you owned in this land back in 1995, where are we now? Perhaps best of all, ‘When We Were Young’ is as perfect of summation of being young and stupid in pre-tiger Ireland as you’re ever going to hear. That it apparently emerged from an attempt to cover Lizzy’s ‘Shades Of A Blue Orphanage’ is a perfect link back to Ireland’s rock n’ roll past, with the ‘Philo Version’ on disk two showing the join with Lynott’s lyrics. The next time there’s one of those ‘Best Of Irish Rock’ compilations, all three of these songs deserve to be on side one.
Then again, if ‘curators’ ‘drop’ – Christ, how did we fall so far? – another such petrol station collection, they should really just include the whole thing. From the kick of ‘Blinded’ – when Page bends down that whole chord - or ‘Fiction’ - the title of the included original demo,'I Am God', is no idle boast - to the strings and Beatley bit in the closing ‘Morning Rise’ or the gorgeous in-crowd decking ‘Personality’, this is an astonishing piece of work. Because I am old, I remember those gigs, I remember this record, and I know that, were there any justice at all, some young band would be writing songs about McKee and his band mates’ portholes, in the mansions that this brilliant record should have bought them. Mind you, I’d bet my press pass that the best of the current crop – Fontaines D.C., The Murder Capital, etc. – are, at the very least, aware of it. Alas, for the most part, as is sadly too often the case, greatness had to be its own reward. Still though, “History is more or less bunk,” said Henry Ford, and he had a point. Its time should have been then, but forget all that, and celebrate Heartworm now.