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The Damned - Evil Spirits

The Damned – Evil Spirits

Forget Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols and The Clash, Londoners The Damned were the original punk band. They were the first punk-rock band from the United Kingdom to release a single, (the excellent ‘New Rose’, which should top any list of the best ever debut singles), the first to release an album, (Damned Damned Damned) and the first UK punk band to tour the United States. Not only that, but they’re also one of the only punk bands left, both on the live circuit and in the studio. Their latest record, Evil Spirits, their first for ten years since 2008’s So, Who’s Paranoid?, and first with bassist Paul Gray since 1982’s Strawberries, was produced by the legendary Tony Visconti and funded for the most part by the people through Pledge Music. The punk aesthetic is very much still alive, people!

The record sees the band moving back to their roots. Guitarist Captain Sensible stated that they, “Deliberately recorded the album retro style – the same way our debut album was made, basically.” This sees the band retrace their way through the wonderful world of punk, glam and gothic rock, which producer Visconti enhances to the max. The new songs may not exactly have the instinctive, exciting vitality of The Damned’s early work, which made them one of the most thrilling prospects the UK had to offer, but they have stuck to their musical guns with a record brimming with gorgeous post-punk-ish riffs, themes of protest and glistening production. As ‘comeback’ and ‘nostalgic’ records go, this is very much a good effort.

Album opener ‘Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow’ kicks the album off in thrilling style, harking back to the gloominess of their 80s heights. Evil Spirits sits in a strange place musically as a lot of the time it sounds like post-punk heroes Joy Division and The Smiths - the sort of bands that wouldn’t be around without The Damned. The record plays as a nostalgic trip back in time, almost ticking off genres as it goes passed, ultimately proving just how important the band were to popular culture. Luckily, it’s got the musical nous and production qualities to lift it from parody into something worthwhile as well.

Meanwhile ‘Devil In Disguise’ is a dark and rhythmic song with beautifully crafted, incandescent organ nuances. The track, written by drummer Pinch, is one of the finest on the record. The Damned have always been at their best when they’re playing to their goth-punk origins - which has always been one of the most unique aspects to the band - and this sees them developing and refining that sound. Dave Vanian’s startling vocal mixed with that classic punk snarl gives the track an in-your-face atmosphere, but lying deeper is Captain Sensible’s exquisite offerings on guitar, along with Monty Oxymoron’s succulent organ riff.

However, it’s not all brash, raucous-style headbangers. Single ‘Look Left’ sees the band exploring a different weapon in their arsenal. This is expressed at a quieter, more leisurely pace, but is no less mischievous and ominous. Propelled by its malevolent, yet touching musical landscape ‘Look Left’, also written by drummer Pinch, sees the band in an ariose disposition. It’s got an authentic 80s new wave ballad feel to it, no doubt enlarged by Visconti’s presence, along with a Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars-style vocal from Vanian.

There’s no doubt Visconti is the MVP here. He’s carefully and intricately honed the best things about The Damned and let the band explore, reflect and run with as many ideas as they possibly can. Under another, less talented producer, this could have been a by the numbers comeback record, but it’s not. Importantly, this record feels fresh, as if the band still have years left in the tank. Evil Spirits will not let the fans down and, maybe, just maybe, might see The Damned find an entirely new audience. Fundamentally, the band are having fun and doing whatever they like, and that’s exactly what punk is about.

Liam McMillen

Website: officialdamned.com
Facebook: facebook.com/OfficialDamned
Twitter: twitter.com/damnedtwits

 

 


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