Album #194: Whipping Boy – Heartworm

  • Released: 1995
  • Origin: Dublin, Ireland
  • Label: Columbia
  • Best Track: A Natural

I’m always amazed at how many lost classics the ’90s still boasts, and I never stop finding new ones. This week, I heard a track by the Irish alt-rock/post-punk band Whipping Boy and was pretty awestruck by the powerful blend of poetry and captivating riffs.

It led me to listen to the band’s album Heartworm, which really is an impressive piece of work. It opens with two catchy as anything tracks, starting with ‘Twinkle’, the growing noise and scuzz of which reminds me of ‘Little Fury Things’, which opened Dinosaur Jr.’s You’re Living All Over Me eight years earlier.

The band pull off these poppy nuggets well, but are even better at their most reflective when Fearghal McKee’s poetic, matter-of-fact lyrics take centre stages. ‘We Don’t Need Nobody Else’ is a brutally honest, warts-and-all account of a strained relationship that’s descended into domestic violence, and is as gripping as it is upsetting.

But my favourite track is one that, on further reading, I’ve learned was originally a hidden track on the record. ‘A Natural’ is a poem dealing with mental health difficulties, growing up awkwardly with love, and a flaky relationship with family. McKee narrates it over a winding violin, before the guitars kick in and he pines the same blunt words that start the track – “Today is not a day for me”. It really does get me. On the digital version, it’s slotted between the final two tracks where it somehow seems to belong, as a poignant but noncanonical interlude.

A wonderful record and a definite influence on future Celtic bands like Idlewild and today’s Fontaines DC. Perhaps unfortunate that it was released at a peak time for British and Irish music.

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