Album Review: Angelic Upstarts – Teenage Warning [Reissue]

Angelic Upstarts

Album Review: Angelic Upstarts – Teenage Warning [Reissue]
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Cherry Red Record’s punk imprint, Captain Oi! begin their mission to reissue a whole series of absolutely essential classic albums with the South Shields mob, Angelic Upstarts’ 1979 debut. Produced by Sham 69’s Jimmy Pursey, Teenage Warning was a powerful new punk voice that reached number 25 on the album charts, and spoke to the disaffected generation, already roused by the Sex Pistols, The Stranglers and The Clash.

Boasting two (almost) top thirty singles in the form of the opening title track, which sets the anarchistic theme of the record, the anthemic I’m an Upstart, Teenage Warning is as an essential punk record as any other album of the day.

The Clockwork Orange reference in the title track, along with the gang vocals and simple street punk riffs, brim with anger and angst; the mocking of faux-activism and empty indignation drives the acerbic Student Power, and Small Town, Small Mind begins at a slow and steady tempo, increasing its speed and it grows in outrage, but has the catchiest of riffs.

Both We the People and the Dropkick Murphys-covered Never Again have distinctive vibes of The Clash going on, the latter addressing a dark theme with a lightness of touch and a solo that belies the simplicity of the genre’s perception. We the People seems to have one foot firmly planted in the early parts of the decade, with Ray Cowie bending strings like he’s Jimmy Page.

Album Review: Angelic Upstarts – Teenage Warning [Reissue]

Do Anything, Let’s Speed and Leave Me Alone show a snottier punk attitude, relying heavily on the bass to create anarchy, yet all have their own charm and individual way of approaching the genre.

A cover of Cliff Richards’ The Young Ones, which was the B-side of the Teenage Warning single, is tackled in the usual Angelic Upstarts irreverent manner, but it’s the central tune of The Murder of Liddle Tower that really finds the Upstarts at their most caustic. Concerning the mysterious death in police custody of the titular Liddle Tower, the band deliver the most emotive tune of the album. Ghostly voices and mournful guitars pre-empt the rage fuelled invective as vocalist, Mensi, unleashes an angry tirade.

A couple of bonus tracks are included in the form of the 1978 self-financed single, The Murder of Liddle Towers, backed with Police Oppression, a track that would find its way onto the Upstarts’ follow up record in 1980.

One of the last times I saw the Angelic Upstarts, at North West Calling in 2018, the band played Teenage Warning in its entirety and, although nearly forty years had passed, it was still as powerful that day as it was when it came out. Six years after that show, and Teenage Warning feels like it has taken on a whole new life in the light of national events.

Sadly, the ever-present Thomas Mensforth – aka Mensi – was lost to Covid in December 2021, but his legacy and passion live on in his music, and no more is it evident than on this punk milestone.

With a GBH singles retrospective, The Good, The Bad and the 4 Skins and the debut from Herne Bay’s mighty The Last Resort awaiting the Captain Oi! treatment, the immediate future is looking very appetising indeed.

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