The Damned's track-by-track guide to Evil Spirits

The Damned
(Image: © Steve Gullick)

Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow
Devil In Disguise
We’re So Nice
Look Left
Evil Spirits
Shadow Evocation
Sonar Deceit
Procrastination
Daily Liar
I Don’t Care

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“At the end of the day it’s all about the tune, and making something fabulous that grabs the listener," says Captain Sensible.

The Damned are back with Evil Sprits, their first studio album in as decade, and the band are as ambitious as ever. "I have some incredible albums at home, by The Kinks, The Who, The Small Faces, and what have you," adds Sensible. "I want ours to be as good as those."

The album was recorded in Brooklyn with legendary David Bowie producer Tony Visconti, who was engaged by the band after a successful PledgeMusic campaign to raise the necessary funds.  

“It was hearing Bowie’s Blackstar that made me think about working with Tony," says singer Dave Vanian. "Particularly the title track – being a long piece, where you go through all these different passages, it reminded me a bit of Curtain Call [17-minute epic off 1980’s Black Album], and what we do sound-wise, generally. 

"We wanted a modern album like that, but not to lose sight of what made his records so brilliant in the past. Plus, we’ve had young producers before, where you’re making references for them, and they’ve never even heard those records. Tony obviously was going to have that knowledge.”

Below, Vanian, Sensible and drummer Pinch take us through Evil Spirits

Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow

Up-to-the-minute garage psychedelia that gallops like Scott Walker’s The Seventh Seal, amid ominous ‘dies irae’ chorale and mucho post-millennial frustration.

Dave Vanian: “An optimistic song even though it is about a dark subject. In a world obsessed by ‘self’, this is a cry for humanity to recognise its humanity, before it’s too late. There is a strong influence of Joe Meek here: Telstar was a glorious song about the opportunities of the future. I’d like to think that SOTEOT reflects a similar sentiment.”

Devil In Disguise

Another energetic garage-punk monster, replete with Monty Oxy Moron’s era-specific Farfisa organ.

Pinch: “People gravitate towards blaming individuals rather than the systems they are part of. Figureheads are only puppets. It’s the puppet masters we should be concerned about. The enemy of our enemy is our friend, apparently.”

We're So Nice

Sensible’s broadside against Anglo-American imperialist meddling around the world bops along gleefully on a Motown beat amid a deluge of melodic excellence.

Captain Sensible: “With all that we know about the Iraq war, and its consequences, does anyone still think we were the ‘heroes’?”

Look Left

Sugar coated mind grenade, addressing post-millennial society’s “media-induced coma”

Dave Vanian: “The weird thing about Pinch is, he listens to the most obnoxious music a lot of the time – all the real hardcore punk stuff – and he a very loud drummer, too, but then he goes and writes this great big show tune – like a massive ensemble cast coming on to sing at the end of the play!”

Pinch: “While everybody's looking left, what the hell is happening right? Tough subject matter is easier to digest when coated in honey rather than vinegar and the message in this song is so important, I couldn’t risk it being a throw away aggro punk tune that was immediately overlooked. I see it more as a love song to the human race. The future is here, and until you awaken your mind, I’ll wait for you.”

Evil Spirits

Fantastically searching, in the best sense ‘progressive’, rocker, with vague echoes of The Who’s Magic Bus and The Rolling Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, and some commensurately exploratory soloing from Sensible. An urgently free-spirited riposte to today’s political stasis.

Captain Sensible: “Whoever you vote for, nothing changes. Labour or Tory, two cheeks of same bum.”

Dave Vanian: “The Who are never far away from The Damned’s sound. We’ve had some big noses in this band, too. I suppose there are some parallels between us, because they were a high-energy band, too, but then Pete started writing his rock-opera stuff, stretching out, looking for different ways of writing. Queen did the same sort of thing as well – we’re one of those bands whose music can cover different genres of music, within one song.”

Shadow Evocation

Quintessential Vanianism, about espousing the night and finding a better way forward than “chasing ghosts of the past”. Features acrobatic backing vocals from American singer-songwriter Kristeen Young.

Dave Vanian:  ”Kristeen has a remarkable vocal range reminiscent of Yma Sumac [1950’s Peruvian-American soprano]. Her singing at the end of the song was originally played on a Theramin but once Kristeen sang the part, there was no need for the instrument anymore.”

Sonar Deceit

Another garage-psych belter, propelled by a jaunty His Latest Flame-style bassline. “What makes a fish desert the sea?” ponders the Captain in this hard-hitting critique of whales and dolphins being driven insane by bombardment by deafening sonar.

Captain Sensible: “What could it possibly be that drives whales and dolphins to prostrate themselves on beaches around the world?”

Procrastination

Noel Coward-esque study of creative deferral, with more mid-’60s Farfisa from Mr Oxy Moron.

Captain Sensible: “One of Monty’s, this one. A bit of self-analysis here: what could be the reason that this band’s last album was recorded back in 2008? It’s good to be able to laugh at yourself – well, at least I think he’s talking about himself there… Isn’t he? Or is it me? Blimey!”

Daily Liar

Co-written by Sensible (tune) and Vanian (lyric), another anger-fuelled barnstormer, with a Kinksian introductory fanfare, a driving beat, and a stirring melodic ascent. All together now: say “no, no, no…no-no” to media misinformation!

Captain Sensible: “For his own selfish reasons, Trump started a discussion about ‘fake news’, but it’s one that some might say has been long overdue. Not a pinch of salt required – you need a whole cellar of the stuff these days.”

I Don't Care

Punk heedlessness rebooted as a triptych of political disaffection, spanning moody piano balladry, Who-y explosiveness, and nocturnal jazz 

Dave Vanian: “This should have been a short song, perhaps only a minute long, written on a rainy afternoon in my study. Demoing the song, I almost forgot that there were two more sections, turning it into a three-part epic in about the same amount of minutes, which seems longer because of the differing moods.”