The Inflammable Material CD from Stiff Little Fingers still sounds good after 25 years. Whether the band does is a worthy question, however. Eleven albums (including three anthologies, suggesting a paucity of inspiration) into a career as Clash Lite, the band is gearing up for a weeklong U.S. tour. Appropriately enough, it will hit older cities, including Cleveland and Pittsburgh -- former industrial powerhouses fallen on hard times, a little like the band itself.
Formed in Belfast in the late '70s, Stiff Little Fingers specialized in short, angry blasts centered on dissatisfaction with life in strife-torn Ireland. Its best-known song is "Alternative Ulster," a stirring call to arms with no place to go. Like the Clash, Stiff Little Fingers (the name comes from a Vibrators tune) liked to mix things up with reggae and brevity. Unlike the Clash, however, the band didn't have staying power or complexity on its side. Today, fronted by original Finger Jake Burns on guitar and vocals, Stiff Little Fingers is touring behind Guitar and Drum, its first new studio album in five years. (That it includes a tune called "Strummerville," an homage to recently deceased Clash frontman Joe Strummer, makes it suspect.) The current incarnation includes Bruce Foxton, former bass player for the Jam.