Stiff Little Fingers - Flags & Emblems (Cover Artwork)

Stiff Little Fingers

Flags & Emblems (1991)


Ah, the reunion album…after touring in the late eighties, this is the result of the desire to record new material. The danger with bands reforming and recording again can be that their new material will be seen in a negative light as it doesn't measure up to earlier albums. This is the case with Flags & Emblems -- even though it does measure up to the last album the band released, Now Then…. This is also the band's first album with former bass player of the Jam, Bruce Foxton.

Stylistically, the album is back to what SLF do best: solid punk and rock songs, as gone are the keyboards and pop influences from 1982's Now Then….

My main problem with about half of the album is that it lacks the fire and passion from previous work; some songs are rough at best and others are middle of the road. The songs that do have a bit of fire and absorbing lyrical content are excellent -- "Each Dollar a Bullet," "Beirut Moon," "Die and Burn" and "No Surrender" are all in this category. The above listed songs will have you reaching for the repeat button -- angry passionate punk songs, basically what SLF does best.

The other half of the album has songs that are generic lyrically and musically, such as "Stand Up and Shout" and "The Game of Life." "Human Shield" is a duet with what I can only describe as a very strange riff, the dual vocals aren't needed and that bloody riff is out of place stylistically to the rest of the album. "Johnny 7" has a decent enough lyric but the music isn't catchy and the singing by the usually solid Henry Cluney is ordinary at best.

The album was reissued in 2004 with new liner notes and a couple of bonus tracks -- a remix of "The Cosh" and an interview with Jake Burns. The interview is an informative listen and covers how the reformation occurred, touring and the controversy about the song "Beirut Moon."

The best way to sum this album up is that there are two excellent tracks that would easily make a SLF 'best of,' a few good songs, a few mediocre songs and a couple stinkers. I guess you could cut them some slack having it been nine years between albums. Though I can't find out how long they spent writing this, it would have been nice to see the results if they had taken more time. Regardless, I would strongly suggest at least checking out the songs that I've praised in the review.