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Oh, this is very special.
Here they are – The Damned transcending everything ever written about them and delivering the set of their lives.
For about 28 minutes they deliver their debut album – still one of the greatest rock n roll albums ever made and it’s absolutely thrilling.
No longer are the Damned the lovable rogues, famous for erratic gigs with the history and the charm to get away with it. Even a bad Damned gig was still great then with that stunning and, let’s face it, pretty mental catalogue of material that ransacked punk, Prog, rock n roll and goth and psych as it just couldn’t make its mind up what the band was.
Somehow in 2016 when the weird got going the Damned got pro and it really suits them. The band have never sounded so on it and it adds a whole new level of power to their music. The night before at the festival they had delivered a perfect festival set and as a extra treat the band are dynamiting their thrilling deb but album as a special show.
The debut album, written almost in its entirety by the visionary Brian James who foresaw punk when everyone else was in flares, was recorded in 1976 by a band at the very seat of its pants with every member playing lead all at the same time making maximum sense of Brian’s great songs and the opportunity of punk rock.
It’s still better than drugs and is also a great pop record and tonight those tunes come out to play.
Vanian and Sensible , are of course, great vaudeville figures – that hint of music hall has always been key to the band and that’s a good thing. They can get away with anything but when totally focused they are one of the great punk combos. Sensible’s guitar playing is stunning and he nails all Brian’s licks effortlessly whilst Vanian’s dark croon is still so seductive. The current rhythm section have a focus and power that underpins the songs perfectly and Mont the tousled haired keyboard player does manic dancing because, well, this is The Damned.
The band sound like they have waited all their lives to play this stuff.
Every song on that debut is killer, if Captain wanted Born to Kill as the debut instead of New Roses it’s spitting hairs – New Rose was the perfect curtain opener (ha ha) for punk rock and still explodes. Neat Neat Neat is still the fast and furious rush with that chorus that rips, Feel The Pain is announced by Captain as the album’s weird misfire track and still drips that with that narcotic narcoleptic menace – I would argue it’s the first goth song ever written. Fan Club still grooves whilst See Her Tonight is as manic as ever but with the added sheen of a crystal clear sound.
It’s all classic stuff and runs out of time in the allotted one hour set that the band full it with some of their great later material proving that they have a had a long creative afterlife. And it doesn’t end there. Headliner Tricky doesn’t appear and the band plough on into the vacated hour plus of his set playing odds and sods and rarely heard cuts. Magical.
In 1996 the Damned were a wounded relic, a much loved but knackered old institution like one of those gothic Victorian piles you would see in British city centres – blue plaque buildings with decaying exteriors.
In 2016 they are in first gear.
They sold out and delivered the Albert Hall and the gigs get bigger and bigger.
They are almost slick. They are in first gear and in the first division and it really suits them and does justice to their marvelous catalogue.
Punk rock does have an afterlife !