Anyone who was a teenager in the UK in the mid/late Seventies will probably have a special place in their hearts for The Damned, the first UK punk band from the United Kingdom to release a single, “New Rose”, (1976, release a studio album, ‘Damned Damned Damned’ (1977), as well as touring the States. They have long ago outgrown their straightforward punk tab, being well-known as purveyors of goth and psychedelia, yet at the heart of everything they do is a wonderful control of melody and some great songs. Over the years their albums have not always lived up to expectations, but I was fortunate enough to catch them a few months back on their ‘Darkadelic’ tour here in Auckland and the new songs stood up incredibly well against the older material, so I have been looking forward to this, and was not disappointed.
One of the strongest songs that night was “Leader of the Gang”, a percussion driven “tribute” to the despised and disgusting paedophile Gary Glitter. Musically it is incredibly reminiscent of what Giltter produced some 50 years ago, and Paul Gray’s basslines are simply stunning. Much of the music on this and on other songs is led by the keyboards of Oxy Moron, with Captain crunching in when the time is right while Dave Vanian is singing as well as ever. It is difficult to realise that both Captain and Vanian are approaching 70 as they show no sign of that whatsoever onstage, and this album certainly does not sound like the work of a group of people in their Sixties (only new drummer Will Taylor is not in that category). This is a solid collection of nice pop rock songs which have been well arranged and are full of psychedelic and gothic influences with little in the way of traditional punk, and I am not surprised to hear that Captain and Taylor spent time listening to The Beatles to ensure they got the arrangements correct.
The result is an album which will surely surprise anyone who has not heard anything from The Damned since the days of “Smash It Up” or “New Rose”, while even “Eloise” is now 37 years old. For me this was a wonderful introduction to the band, and I truly hope the sell-out show at the Power Station means they will feel inclined to come back again.