I didn't quite believe I'd ever see this day, but...The Damned have a new album out. Now, that in itself might not seem such an unusual thing. After all, The Damned have had plenty of albums out, in the three decades since the band first formed in the punk rock chaos of the mid-seventies. But after a flurry of album-action (and, indeed, a few chart hits) in earlier days, over recent years the band's recorded output has slowed to a trickle.
The new Damned album, So, Who's Paranoid? comes seven years after the previous one, Grave Disorder, which in turn arrived six years after Not Of This Earth - which itself came a full nine years after Anything. In short, compilers of Damned discographies haven't exactly had their work cut out just recently.
are many reasons for this sporadic release schedule, not least the band's
own tendency to split up at irregular intervals, only to reform shortly
afterwards in an assortment of different line-ups, with sundry acrimonious
bust-ups between former members along the way.
of all, here's Devilish Presley to
warm things up, and it's good to see a Damned gig without the usual no-brainer
bunch of punk cliche-shouters in the support slot. Whoever booked Devilish
Presley was thinking out of the punk box for once, and in a way Devilish
Presley are the ideal band for a Damned gig. They're loud and fast and
suitably take-no-prisoners, an approach which is just what the punks down
the front tonight are looking for.
Dave Vanian is moustachioed and dapper; Captain Sensible is, as ever, the punker joker. Monty Oxymoron is the mad professor at his keyboard. Stu West, The Damned's current bassist, is the no-nonsense workmanlike one, while Pinch, on drums, goes for a touch of rock star glamour with his Green Day spiky-top and shades. That's the present incarnation of The Damned, ladies and gentlemen, and here comes the music: the old faves in unceremonious collision with the new stuff.
dare say The Damned would be lynched by outraged fans if they didn't whack
out the old punkzoid tunes like 'Neat Neat Neat' and 'Fan Club', and sure
enough we get those and a few more of that ilk tonight. It says much for
the band's ability to create cohesion out of diversity that The Damned
can go from the crazed thrash of their earliers songs, through the punk-with-melody
mid-period stuff like 'Love Song' and 'Smash It Up', to the modern, punchy
pop of 'Democracy' and 'She' - and yet they always sound like The Damned.
I'm amused to see dear old Monty, who has no keyboard parts to play on the old songs, fill the gap by jumping frenziedly around as if leading a pogo-aerobics class. But, Monty's antics aside, the new songs dovetail easily with the old, and the new songs seem good to me. I'd even go so far as to say that 'Shallow Diamonds' is one of those neat (neat, neat) pop songs that The Damned have been writing for years, but for which they rarely get credit. It's certainly an instant hit tonight.
As if to emphasise just how far the band have come over the years, a spirited dash through 'New Rose', the debut single of '76, gives way to 'Dark Asteroid' - the band's latest excursion into early-Floyd psychedelia, a wibbly-wobbly world where I suspect The Damned have always been secretly most at home. The song unfurls into a lengthy, part-improvised jam, with Sensible and Monty attacking the drum kit as Pinch tries to keep control - and it's all delightfully The Damned.