They may have been in the vanguard of punk – enjoying the patronage of Sniffin’ Glue’s Mark P and having their archetypal three-chord rant, Right To Work, show up on the soundtrack of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee movie – but by the time Chelsea finally got round to releasing an album in 1979, they’d been recast as dinosaurs.
Pitted against The Clash’s London Calling or Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, their rough and ready sloganeering anthems sounded pathetically dated. Much of it was down to singer Gene October’s truculent personality and the weekly band changes (the first line-up walked out to form Generation X) that hampered the band’s progress.
October’s gruff growl still seems to be dragging the band along with him on their 1979 self-titled debut, although guitarist James Stevenson provides some energetic slashes, particularly on the opening I’m On Fire. By and large though, it’s pretty ponderous.
Most of the singles were rounded up on their second album, Alternative Hits, in 1980. The ragged High Rise Living is a leaden follow-up to Right To Work and the rousing Urban Kids (a rare professional production by The Who’s producer Kit Lambert) failed to retrieve their fortunes. Only the spirited No One’s Coming Outside and Look At The Outside offer hope after that.
They finally get out of first gear on their third album, 1982’s Evacuate, but by that time it’s simply not enough.