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Pop Music Reviews : Gassing Up With Petrol Emotion

October 23, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

It was just about a week ago that Scotland's Silencers were rocking the Roxy, warning of the wiles of the devil and singing the praises of "God's Gift." On Wednesday, we had a Northern Irish group, That Petrol Emotion, in the same club singing, "I'd rather be the devil than go creeping to the Cross." Guess it takes all kinds.

Given the kind of politically (and agnostically) correct cant that That Petrol Emotion is prone to, a certain brand of snotty European arrogance might've been expected from the quintet on stage. But the band turned out to be quite casual and user-friendly, with animated and sweaty singer Steve Mack--a Seattle native, and the group's one non-Irishman--offering a barrage of witty and even self-mocking asides.

On record, the guitar-focused band is a textbook case of "post-punk." Live, however, the less drone-prone Emotion sounded a lot more like just plain old punk . Energy, cacophony and precision aren't three bad hallmarks to start off with, and there was even a pop hook, catchy guitar riff or harmony here and there as a tip-off to those suspicious of pure thrash.

The songwriting isn't always rewarding or emotional, but instrumentally--in songs like "Belly Bugs," with its frantic, Middle-Eastern-sounding twin guitar leads, or a new Clash-style funk number--the group (which also plays the Coach House Saturday) is frequently as incendiary as its name threatens.

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