Stiff Little Fingers

Published on August 9th, 2014

Stiff Little Fingers

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Stiff Little Fingers

A One-Finger Salute, Stiff and Little

If there were any justice in this sorry, creepingly fascistic world—if bands received set time and billing based on their quality and importance, and not their number of units moved—the lineup for the punk-rocking Summer Nationals Tour would be almost exactly reversed. As it stands, the tour, which swings by the Cruzan on August 15, will be headlined by the Offspring, a group of perpetually adolescent sellouts that hasn’t released anything vital or relevant in 20 years.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the ticket is none other than Belfast’s Stiff Little Fingers, punk royalty for nearly four decades. Its members—only two remain from its late ‘70s peak—are grayer than they used to be, but they remain proudly independent, and they’ve outlived the many acts that once overshadowed them, like the Sex Pistols and Ramones.

I’m not ashamed to admit I discovered Stiff Little Fingers, like many latent fans, through the movie High Fidelity, when meek record geek Dick introduces SLF to an impressionable punk-rock novitiate raised on Green Day. The song he plays is “Suspect Device,” an essential punk nugget excavated from oblivion, what with the three-chord fury, the politically astute lyrics, and the radically stuttering chorus—“you gotta suss, suss, suss, suss, suss out / Suss suspect device!”—that continues to confound many a turntable.

bad religion

Bad Religion

It’s one of several cuts from the band’s seminal 1979 debut Inflammable Material that still turn up on its set lists. The group’s sound has “evolved” over numerous incarnations, warming to the ‘80s and ‘90s by adopting the mellower influences of The Specials, Elvis Costello and certain Replacements songs, but there’s nothing punker than the concept of its latest album, “No Going Back,” a record that was self-released and crowd-funded—a tech-savvy way of sticking it to the man.

Speaking of which, Bad Religion, a band well accustomed to opening for inferior acts, joins this tour as well. They have, thankfully, changed very little over 35 years of exhaustible touring, carrying the mantle of moral righteousness in a society overrun by corporate avarice, destructive dogma and a populace frustratingly numbed by technology and prescription drugs (the band’s 1990 hit “21st Century Digital Boy” sounds positively prophetic these days). Bad Religion’s latest album, True North, is rage against the machine that sounds as essential as anything in its storied archive.

The tour, which also includes skate-punkers Pennywise, begins at 6:30pm (and do show up early!) August 15 at Cruzan Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $36.95 to $88.01. Call 561/795-8883 or visit livenation.com

~John Thomason

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