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Chelsea: Anthology One

Punk pioneers’ first three albums.

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.

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.