Instead, Westworld Recordings have dusted down and re-released the live album ‘Fiendish Shadows’ and the compilation album ‘Punk Oddities And Rare Tracks’ from our very own cross-genre punking instigators.
The Damned have always been my personal pick of the original punk-pack, classic songs, and a band who have always delivered the goods. (Even though they looked pretty tired the last time I saw them, having just got back from a festival appearance, and partying with a German oompah band, or something). Always willing to learn a few more chords than their contemporaries, and of course, Captain Sensible being a brilliant guitarist, in fact he is probably one of the most overlooked guitar players that this country has produced.(As well as being a bloody nice bloke!).
Sensible wasn’t around to record The Damned’s 1985 album ‘Phantasmagoria’, which is a shame, ‘cos if he had been, it probably would have been a better album.
To my mind ‘Phantasmagoria’ is one of the bands weaker efforts, as it was possibly the first to pander to Dave Vanian’s gothic-hued vocals as a framework, rather than good songs.
So, how does a live show from that era fare…in the Damned scheme of things?
‘Fiendish Shadows’ was recorded at the end of their 1985/1986 tour, and along with Vanian and drummer Rat Scabies, we have guitarist Roman Jugg, and bass-player Bryn Merrick.
Things get off to a slightly shaky start with some wobbly vocals courtesy of the opening number, and as the crowd seems pretty raucous, they probably weren’t expecting the prog-rock theatrics of ‘Curtain Call’ to kick off the show. Once the track gets into its stride we’re off into a pretty rip-roaring set. The material from ‘Phantasmagoria’ is freed from the rather pedestrian-sounding chains of their recorded counterparts and fit well alongside songs from the superior ‘Strawberries’ album. Even ‘Grimly Fiendish’ manages to sound less twee and more urgent, as the band plough their way through some genuine classics such as ‘Wait For The Blackout’ and ‘Smash It Up’, and hardy punk perennials as ‘New Rose’ and ‘Love Song’.
It’s a bit strange not hearing ramblings from the Captain between songs, but don’t worry folks, he pops up with frequent buoyancy throughout ‘Punk Oddities And Rare Tracks’.
This is a mixture of demos, singles, and live stuff, and it’s always good fun to hear the demo versions of songs that you know really well.
The lyrics are actually audible on ‘Love Song’, compared to its album incarnation, and there’s plenty of mucking about on ‘I Just Can’t Be Happy Today’, and it’s always good to “catch, catch the horror taxi” of ‘Nasty’. Anyone who grew up watching “The Young Ones” will usually get a kick out of that one.
‘Do The Blitz’ is rock and roll cheese, and ‘Stab Your Back’ and ‘You Know’ are as punk as fuck. As for the punked-up version of Captain’s pop atrocity ‘Happy Talk’…well, it’s utterly bloody marvelous!
Incidentally, the last track featured here is a live version of ‘Smash It Up’, providing a HUGE plug for Westworld’s very own ‘Fiendish Shadows’ CD.
These releases may only appeal to completists though, so any newcomers would be wiser to start at the very beginning, with the seminal ‘Damned Damned Damned’ album (as the bands history can get a little messy). For everybody else, what we have on offer here, is pretty neat. (neat, neat).
(8.5/10 (for both) Stuart Carroll)