I am old enough to remember when Whipping Boy were Jesus and Mary Chain wannabes, and their utter transformation a couple of years later as witnessed on a grandstanding performance on The Late Late Show.
The song they played that night was ‘We Don’t Need Nobody Else’, arguably Whipping Boy’s signature song, from what is, for many, one of the finest Irish albums ever made - Heartworm, originally released in 1995, now re-released on double vinyl/CD, with additional B-sides, demos, and acoustic versions.
In the 24 years since its original release, Heartworm still retains its dark, brooding intensity, and sense of majesty - as witnessed by the eastern sounding violin passages which announces opening track ‘Twinkle’, the grim power of ‘Tripped’, or the Nick Cave-esque ‘The Honeymoon Is Over’.
‘We Don’t Need Nobody Else’ remains startling. Its depiction of a disintegrating relationship, and how casually, indifferently, easily, men will resort to control and violence (“I hit you for the first time today/I didn’t mean it...and you thought you knew me” ) is extremely unsettling, the language of the abuser so well and so chillingly caught.
Coming as the embers of grunge finally died, and just before Britpop became Carry On Jingoism, Whipping Boy were different to much of what else was going on. Vocalist Fergal McKee can take much credit for that. He delivered his intelligent lyrics in a spoken word style, forcing the listener to pay attention to each word and the meaning of each song - almost as if he was conversing with you personally - backed by music that was as atmospheric and intense as the lives he depicted.
That approach has been a major source of inspiration to one of the most exciting Irish bands of recent years - Fontaines DC - who owe much to Whipping Boy, and who duly acknowledge that debt. Heartworm’s continuing relevance endures.