. . .
After The Undertones — on whom we will definitely spend some time next year — split up, founding guitarist John O’Neill formed That Petrol Emotion with his brother Damian, who switched from lead guitar to bass in order to make sure that the new band sounded different from their former band.
Which they certainly did: on That Petrol Emotion’s first two albums, 1986’s Manic Pop Thrill and 1988’s Babble, the best songs featured John O’Neill continually wrapping his guitar around the guitar of Raymond Gorman and the funky drums of Ciaran McLaughlin, my favorite example being the lead single from Babble, 1987’s “Big Decision.”
From the get-go, the guitars on “Big Decision” jump out of the speakers and bounce around the room, possibly distracting you from O’Neill’s Billy Bragg-ish lyrics, sung by Steve Mack, whose voice didn’t even try to battle the guitars for prominence.
See my honey in the streets
It’s desolate but where she likes to meet
Economies gets weaker
As they get satisfaction on their knees
That said, you totally noticed the chorus, which was a precursor to the “men would literally [do some crazy shit] than [work on themselves]” meme.
You rather sail the ocean
The way the guitars cascade after each verse even mitigate the almost-embarrassing rap, or “rap” that John O’Neil performs in the middle of song, and again at the end.
What you’ve gotta do
In this day and age
You gotta agitate
Take the time to live
Take the time to give
You gotta agitate
It’s a great sentiment, of course, but it was a little bit cringey in 1987, and time hasn’t really done it any favors, but the rest of “Big Decision” is so on point that all is forgiven.
“Big Decision” was basically the peak of That Petrol Emotion’s popularity in the U.K. — here, of course, they were played primarily on college radio — peaking out at #43, and the album peaked at #30, despite critical raves then and now.
“Big Decision” live on the Tube, 1987
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