The Damned continue to flourish as their punk peers wither and fade

Darkadelic is a loud'n'lively twelfth album from punk’s most adaptable survivors The Damned

The Damned - Darkadelic cover art
(Image: © earMUSIC)

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'It’s always been a great adventure for so many years’ Captain Sensible sings on Bad Weather Girl, two tracks into Darkadelic. The song is ostensibly about the unpredictable climate through which The Damned have traversed these isles over the past five decades, but it could also be taken as a measure of their sheer staying power. They’ve endured, and flourished, when most of their punk peers have long-since withered. 

The original Damned line-up reunited for some shows at the end of 2022, playing together for the first time in 20-odd years. That’s where the nostalgia ends, though. The new-look Damned – original members Dave Vanian and the Captain, plus long-time ally Paul Gray on bass, keyboard player Monty Oxymoron and new drummer Will Glanville-Taylor – already had Darkadelic in the can by closing night, squaring up to the future just as they drew a line under the past. 

Darkadelic is no dramatic reinvention – this is most certainly a Damned record – yet it carries enough fire and youthful zest to suggest fresh purpose. It certainly rocks harder than 2018 predecessor Evil Spirits. At the same time, naturally, it carries echoes of the band’s catalogue, particularly the early-80s transition from post-punk subversion to gothy psychedelia. 

Nothing encapsulates this better than Wake The Dead, which enters like a seditious take on Alice Cooper’s Elected and exits via a series of swirling passages that reference burning candles, spectral weddings and the hidden veil between worlds. The idea, in the band’s own words, is “to give the fans a fucking killer song if they need one for a funeral”. 

Western Promise is suffused with the same urgent drama. A baleful love song with a sad-sounding trumpet break and a great organ solo, it’s a charged hymn to wanderlust and togetherness in the face of tempest and storm. ‘Fortune favours the brave as we seize the day,’ Vanian asserts, in one of his most measured vocal performances. The moonlit Roderick feels like a lost blood brother of 1980’s Curtain Call, a semisymphonic piece with piano, brass, Latin choir and allusions to Edgar Allan Poe. 

Mostly, though, Darkadelic is fairly breathless stuff. Sensible is both savage and articulate on guitar, be it the Stooges-like blowout Follow Me, a merciless takedown of celebrity culture, or the ferocious Leader Of The Gang, a thinly veiled account of Gary Glitter’s fall from grace. All told, Darkadelic is a vital and reassuringly pugnacious return.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.