When these venerable Irish punks joined the early-'90s reunion parade, few gave them any chance of going the distance, especially after a decidedly iffy comeback album, Flags & Emblems (1991). However, a funny thing happened four years later: singer-guitarist Jake Burns figured out how to make those shopworn pop-punk chords ring true again, yielding one of the band's finest outings. The title track's martial denunciation of apathy sets an appropriate back-to-basics tone. Topical pop-punk is the blueprint, with Burns slinging blasts against social complacency ("No Laughing Matter"), police corruption ("Forensic Evidence"), anti-immigrant bias ("Harp"), and the end of Communism ("The Night That the Wall Came Down"). Studio-wise, former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton plays an effective foil to Burns, while drummer Dolphin Taylor's unflagging rat-a-tat-tat keeps the proceedings taut and focused. The production is as crisp and business-like as the songs themselves. Rounding off matters are "unplugged" remakes of the standards "Silver Lining," "Wasted Life," and the later-era fare of "Listen" -- as well as live versions of Foxton's major Jam credit, "Smithers-Jones," and "Alternative Ulster," the single that launched the band's career. Solid melodies and performances enable Get a Life to outstrip the rickety material and execution that usually dogs most returning bands. In this respect, Stiff Little Fingers' story parallels that of the Buzzcocks, who've aged equally well, even if the chart hits don't follow anymore.~~ Ralph Heibutzki
trACks: Get A Life - Can't Believe in You - The Road to Kingdom Come - Walk Away - No Laughing Matter - Harp - Forensic Evidence - Baby Blue (What Have They Been Telling You) - I Want You - The Night That the Wall Came Down - Cold - When the Stars Fall From the Sky - What If I Want More - Silver Lining (unplugged) - Listen (unplugged) - Wasted Life (unplugged) - Smither Jones (live) - Alternative Ulster (live).