The final album of Stiff Little Fingers' first incarnation, Now Then‚?¶ is definitely a disappointment after the great Go for It.
Released in 1982 when the popularity of punk was waning, Now Then‚?¶ sees the band going for a more pop/new wave-oriented sound than previous releases with bigger drums, more keyboards and decidedly less rock.
The main problem when listening to this album is that you know that they can do better than this, as they have proven in the past. The album gives off a very bland vibe; it's not that any of the tracks are downright terrible, but it just seems like the band was on autopilot here and decided that these tracks would be good enough. It isn't a big surprise that the band packed it in soon after this album, if this was the best they could do.
Another factor is that the band wrote this album collectively rather than previous efforts where singer/guitarist Jake Burns wrote the bulk of the material. Instead of a focused flowing album, we get a range of different songs from pop reggae to spoken word to driving rock.
While it is definitely the worst SLF album, it does have its moments. It starts off with a bang in the quick "Falling Down." The cover of "Love of the Common People" is an upbeat, catchy reggae pop number that'll get you tapping along. "Stands to Reason" is a decent pop song with good subject matter about hypocritical bigots: "The media all twist the facts; I read it in the paper." "Bits of Kids" is the best song on the album and a real pop-rock gem with a soaring chorus.
Unfortunately, these two songs are followed up with the two worst -- "Welcome to the Whole Week," an extremely poppy, bland song about the lives of the unemployed and "Big City Night," a spoken word track that plods along for close to four minutes. The album then finishes off strongly with "Is That What You Fought the War For?", a guitar-driven track with another huge chorus. That gives you five good songs and six filler/mediocre songs -- not good enough, which is why this album collects its fair share of dust on the CD rack.
Now Then‚?¶ comes fairly cheap and a reissue is available that has five bonus tracks. Four of these are from the ¬£1.10 or Less EP that was released just before Now Then...; unfortunately these tracks are rather mediocre as well.
If you're a big fan of SLF, then this album is worth checking out; just come in with low expectations and chances are you'll enjoy the better songs.