That Petrol Emotion formed when the O’Neill brothers (Sean and Damian) parted from the fragmenting Undertones. They added Ciaran McLaughlin (drums), Reamann O’Gormain (guitar) and dynamic American frontman Steve Mack on vocals.
They debuted with the single Keen on the small independent label, Pink. Both that single and the subsequent V2 proved radical departures from The Undertones with frothing guitar and a fuller sound.
There was now a political agenda too. The questioning of British imperialism, explored through factors like racist jokes and the fate of political prisoners, would become a tenet of their music (and their record sleeves).
The band matched their intricate, grungy guitar arrangements with hard, modern rhythms on the albums Manic Pop Thrill and Babble.
Sean O’Neill elected to give family matters his attention and returned to Derry. Brother Damian switched to the guitar with John Marchini taking over on bass.
Chemicrazy was a strong follow-up album, with singles like Hey Venus and Sensitize. The album stalled at UK number 62, though, and its disappointing performance led to the end of the band’s contract with Virgin Records.
Switching bass players again (for Belfast-born Brendan Kelly) they recorded their heaviest, most riff-laden album to date – Fireproof, released in 1993 – which reached #1 in the UK Indie Chart.
Despite the generally positive press coverage, That Petrol Emotion could not achieve sustained commercial success or popularity, and the band split amicably in 1994.