Who’d a thought…42 years after acquiring the distinction of being the first British punk band to release a single, the breakneck-tempo love song of sorts “New Rose,” the Damned would still be at it – and sounding as vital as ever. Yes, this past April the band released their eleventh album, Evil Spirits, and this month they put in an appearance at Irving Plaza in NYC. Their usual Halloween-season show, though a bit earlier this year. (remember this one? from way back when Schizomusica was just learning to crawl)
The new-ish album is a brisk, ten-song trip that PopMatters describes as sounding like “a band stretching out and having fun in a studio, under the watchful eye of someone who is accustomed to working with mavericks and outcasts.” That someone is Tony Visconti, venerable producer of many a David Bowie record, who’s certainly elicited some top-notch creations out of this bunch of mavericks and outcasts. Lead-off track “Standing On the Edge of Tomorrow” is classic, gothic, Dave-Vanian-sung Damned, almost bringing to mind the faster side of…the Moody Blues? And it’s got a knockout sci-fi-themed video. Following are songs composed by various Damned members, the best being “We’re So Nice,” “Sonar Deceit” (both written and sung by guitarist Captain Sensible, the latter adopting a nice 60s-Supremes-style beat – with horns even); “Look Left” (by drummer Pinch and touring bassist Jon Priestley – as opposed to recording bassist Paul Gray – and with another great video); the theme song for myself and many people I know, “Procrastination” (penned by Sensible and keyboardist Monty Oxymoron – so lots of cool organ going on); and the 6-minute, trumpet-infused Vanian/Sensible monster “Daily Liar” (now who could that be referring to?). And check out the cover art: a film-noir movie poster motif down to the listing of the band members’ names – big last name, small first name.
October 18th brought the Damned to NYC once again, for a set studded with classics, not-so-classics, and a few soon-to-be-classics from Evil Spirits – against a backdrop showcasing the shadowy “man in the doorway” figure on the album cover. Kicking off with “Nasty,” the number the band performed back in the mid-80s on Brit TV comedy The Young Ones, the set seemed to lean heavily not on material from the new record (“Standing On the Edge of Tomorrow,” “Devil in Disguise,” and “We’re So Nice” – nothing more), but on the 1980 release The Black Album – including four in a row early on, plus the single “History of the World (Part 1)” and an abbreviated rendition of the epic “Curtain Call.” Rounding out the main set were “Stranger on the Town” from 1982’s Strawberries, the ’86 single “Eloise” (a cover of a 1968 Brit-hit by Paul Ryan), the always-appropriate-nowadays “Democracy?” from 2001’s Grave Disorder, and a healthy helping of good ol’ punk rock like “Love Song,” “Neat Neat Neat,” and of course “New Rose” (which they dedicated to ‘Joey’ – Ramone I would imagine).
l-r: Monty Oxymoron, Paul Gray, Dave Vanian, Pinch, wot! Mike Love?
The spectacular encores – two of ’em – couldn’t help but drive the Irving Plaza crowd to ear-gasm: “Curtain Call,” the rowdy sing-along “Ignite,” “Street of Dreams” (the opener from 1985’s Phantasmagoria), and hands-down the best Damned song ever, “Smash It Up.” But the charm of the Damned goes beyond their amazing songs. After singing lead on “Silly Kids Games,” the affable Captain Sensible quipped, “They let me sing one song each gig…like Ringo…like Ringo without the money! But, big noses!” At the end of the show Sensible and Vanian each thanked the audience for “putting up with him” (pointing at each other), at which point the Captain mentioned he’d been working with Mr. Vanian for 42 years. Yikes. Punk rock is old! So once again…OLD GUYS ROCK.
(wait, that’s a little too old)
Images courtesy warriorsofmyth.wikia.com, burningflame.net, amazon.com, me, arena.com/The Damned, zazzle.com
YouTube videos courtesy Good999Music, TheDamnedVEVO (© 2018 The Damned, under exclusive license to Universal Music Operations Limited), The Damned, Casey Purdy, Chuck Friendly, Ace Records Ltd