It’s nice to see The Damned getting the deluxe vinyl reissue treatment, because they’re a great band but also because they’re often seriously underrated. While most of their punk peers are revered to an absurd extent, The Damned are sometimes seen as a slightly embarrassing comedy band. This may well be because they sometimes are a slightly embarrassing comedy band, but also it’s snobbery.
Write a funny lyric or call yourself a comic name and you lose the untouchability of a Sioux or a Weller. Wear a tutu on stage and you’ll never be a Strummer or a Lydon.
In reality, The Damned’s career, as these three diverse LPs show, encompasses more than funny clothes and falling over on television. They’ve been through so many phases and outlasted so many of their contemporaries that they could end up being the first and last British punk band./o:p
From the very beginning, back in 1976, they’ve combined daftness, energy, darkness, great songwriting and a defiant attitude that’s taken them into the charts surprisingly often. And their rotating line-up – like a punk weather house, you never see Scabies or Sensible in the same band at the same time – has helped ring changes and bring in surprising invention every few years or so.
Their debut Damned Damned Damned (8⁄10) shows then-songwriter Brian James somewhat in thrall to the Stooges, but the album’s superfast buzz thrash holds up well today. And it contains New Rose and Neat Neat Neat, two of the greatest singles of that – and any – era.
Its successor, Music For Pleasure (7⁄10), has to be one of the most maligned albums of all time. Debut producer Nick Lowe was replaced by the band’s new choice, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd (allegedly they wanted Syd Barrett) and the line-up was augmented by Lu Edmonds (now of PiL) and saxophone from Lol Coxhill. The result is not as fierce as Damned Damned Damned but songs like Problem Child, Don’t Cry Wolf and the Television-baiting Idiot Box show development and intelligence. But not hit potential.
The Damned imploded after this, re-formed to make the brilliant Machine Gun Etiquette and the ambitious Black Album (not included here), and then recorded Strawberries (6⁄10). From the excellent Ignite to the Viv Stanshall-enhanced Lovely Money, it’s a bit interim, but with its Captain Sensible pop tendencies and increased confidence, was a sign of things to come./o:p