The Damned – Darkadelic Review

Punk rock legends bring something new to the table

Release Date: April 28th 2023

Label: earMUSIC

Genre: Unique 

 

Band Members:

Dave Vanian – lead vocals ,
Captain Sensible – guitar / vocals,
Paul Gray – bass ,
Monty Oxymoron – keyboards / vocals,
Will Taylor – drums ,

 

Tracklist: 

1 The Invisible Man
2 Bad Weather Girl
3 You’re Gonna Realise
4 Beware of the Clown
5 Western Promise
6 Wake the Dead
7 Follow Me
8 Motorcycle Man
9 Girl I’ll Stop at Nothing
10 Leader of the Gang
11 From Your Lips
12 Roderick

 

Firstly the stats. This album marks 46 years since the band’s debut ‘Damned, Damned, Damned’ was released. 44 years since their defining ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ was released. Many fans of the found will latch onto those albums, mutter grumblings into their pint of warm ale and bemoan the fact that the band “don’t make em’ like that any more”. 

It’s also 4 decades since the band decided to look at alternatives with their output and delivered the amazing 1-2 of ‘Strawberries’ (1982) and  ‘Phantasmagoria’ (1985). Those two albums specifically proved that The Damned could veer in different directions and still deliver classic material that would suit multiple audiences. As such, grumble away into your warm ale because I want the band that veers to continue to write music and present albums like ‘Darkadelic’, The Damned’s first since 2018’s ‘Evil Spirits’.

Opening with ‘The Invisible Man’ you get a real sense that the label and management are really behind this release as the striking video to accompany it and the impact that the song has suggests that, even in their 5th decade, there is a full tank of gas and a long road ahead for The Damned. 

The whole album offers a very unique style. You can’t call this gothic rock, it’s not punk rock although the lyrics on tracks like ‘Beware Of The Clown’ remind us that, when the band have a message to deliver, they continue to cut to the chase with ease. The bite and passion all remain intact but it’s delivered with Dave Vanian’s gloriously smooth vocal tones. It’s as if Dean Martin was fronting the The Clash at times although if he had, I’m sure I’d describe it as it sounding like Dave Vanian fronting The Damned but you get my drift. 

Vanian still looks every inch like he sleeps upside down in his closet, impeccably dressed, hair slicked back, white skinned and oozing class and charm throughout each one of the 12 tracks on offer. There are elements of Tom Jones, a little of Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy) and definite nods to the Rat Pack era of song delivery from Vanian. Captain Sensible plays guitar with real crunch and brings to mind multiple artists and eras including The Hives, The Cramps, The B52s, and more as well as retaining his uncanny ability to layer in solo after solo without it overwhelming any of the songs. When you realise his playing is there… in the song.. it suddenly clicks as far as all of the instrumentation is concerned. The production, mixing and mastering is second to none. Every instrument can be isolated with ease so if your passion is drumming and you want to hear how newcomer Will Taylor fares, just focus on the tracks and his playing drifts to the front. Similarly with Sensible and bassist Paul Gray, you can hear how the two of them play off each other, with Gray adding a real groove to Sensible’s gorgeous licks. 

The depth on a modern The Damned album comes of course, courtesy of Monty Oxymoron whose playing gives the music a real psychedelic feel at times. You can understand now why it’s almost impossible to pigeonhole the band in any particular genre. 

Bad Weather Girl’ and ‘Motorcycle Man’ remain firm favourites of mine on the album. Vanian’s vocal work on the former is utterly captivating and on the latter, well, if you remember it then you’ll hear Monty channeling his inner ‘Joe-90′ on the chorus. Takes me right back! 

For those wanting the grit they grew up with, well it’s all in there, you just need to open your mind and try new things. Listen to ‘Girl I’ll Stop At Nothing’ with it’s energetic riffs and Gray’s rumbling bass groove powering the song along. This and pretty much every track feels like an excuse to press the rewind \ repeat button on whatever medium you’re using to listen to it. 

They save however, the best for last. The 12 track album closes with ‘Roderick’. A spoken, gothic intro, the sort of thing that would perfectly fit the beginning of a Hammer Horror movie. When Vanian sings though, the piano and orchestral work behind him pushes the song towards something that could be considered for a future Bond movie theme. It’s dark, mysterious, epic and enthralling whilst managing to feel somewhat sorrowful at the same time. No wonder Vanian is considered to be ‘of the night’ – This is absolutely his song and only works because it is the album closer. Too epic and too grand to sit anywhere else but I genuinely don’t know who else could sing this. We can only hope for a video…. now that would be special. 

If you’re expecting music of 46 years ago and aren’t prepared to come to the table open minded you will grumble. If you want modern music that taps into the essence of The Damned and covers 40 years ago and everything in between then and now, then you’ve come to the right place. The Damned of 2023 are by far one of my favourite things right now. 

Score 9/10

Reviewed by : Adrian Hextall

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