One of the darlings of the early British punk scene released their eleventh studio album earlier this year. It is their first in ten years and it’s been forty-one years since their first release, “Damned Damned Damned”. Yes, The Damned are back with their latest release, Evil Spirits and are as relevant as ever. They no longer sound like “musical fighting” as comedian Craig Ferguson described their early sound. Over the years, they have developed into artists who move between hard-hitting beats and ethereal rhythms seamlessly. One has to wonder what brought these legends back to the studio after so many years away. They could easily rest on their laurels and tour with the many great songs from their infamous past. It would seem that The Damned has had enough of what is going on in the world today and they felt a need to speak their minds in an intelligent non-biased way, which is sorely lacking in this day and age.
The album opens with the preapocalyptic “Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow”. This track reminds us that we all need to work together and think of the greater good rather than “what’s in it for me” and to make this world a better, less destructive place. Front man Dave Vanian says it’s “an optimistic song even though it is about a dark subject. In a world obsessed by ‘self’, this is a cry for humanity to recognize its humanity, before it’s too late.”
“The Devil In Disguise” is an anthem exposing the evils of politics today. The leaders are merely puppets while the true leaders hide in the shadows behind the scene. “Don’t blame the master” [the one who is actually the puppet] “blame the plan” [laid out by the true masters lurking in the shadows] “Don’t join the shell game, watch the scam” says it all. Politics are merely a shell game, a scam designed to drag us in much the same as sheep being led to the slaughter. “Ones out -the next ones in I’m gonna make you hate again” points out that once one leader is out and the next one is in place, the issues of hate and discontent rear their ugly heads once again.
“We’re So Nice” is guitarist Captain Sensible’s jab at Anglo-American imperialist meddling in the affairs of the world. “Where there’s dispute you’ll find us there”. “It takes a lot to make a nation want to fight but you can trust the daily news to put us right” is a not so subtle poke at the media and their influence on how wars are perceived.
“Look Left” is a warning to the postmillennial society regarding their “media induced coma”. “Masterful illusions, digital magicians guided by the hidden hand. Lies become the facts, Writers in a wrong world by shackles they are bound” Those lyrics are a warning to us all regarding the media’s disregard for the truth in their quest to manipulate us into thinking they are reporting the truth. This is a cry to get us to not believe what either side of the media is telling us, rather listen to it all and question what they are saying. Dissect the information and take nothing at face value!
The title track, “Evil Spirits” is yet another look at the vacuum of politics. You can long for something but when “The Evil Spirit” or present day leader is gone, you still will not be able to get what you desire. “Long overdue to stop the rot but it feels like nothing’s changed. At last the Evil Spirit’s gone but it feels like nothing’s changed”. Per Captain Sensible, “Whoever you vote for, nothing changes.” A bleak but truthful outlook on the state of politics to say the least.
“Shadow Equivocation” is quintessential Vanian that harkens back to the Phantasmagoria album of 1985. It speaks of trying to look forward but being pulled back by memories of the past. The angels of a bright future are urging him to run faster towards the bright future while the devils of the past try to pull him back into the abyss of the evils of his past. The determination of his success is left up to you to decide.
“Sonar Deceit” is a poppy song reminiscent of the early 80’s “new wave” bands such as Squeeze or Crowded House. When whales of the music industry follow sounds other than theirs, they often flounder on the beach. If they slowly evolve, as the Damned have, they can survive and prosper.
“Procrastination” is a song about putting things off. Perhaps it’s the Damned looking at themselves in the mirror and trying to reason why it took ten years to release a studio album. Oxy Moron’s Farfisa gives the song a 60’s psychedelic flair that is heard through several tracks. It shows that, contrary to underlying theme of “Shadow Equivocation”, you can look back and add it to the present to move into the future.
“Daily Liar” is a very hard-hitting poke in the eye of the media and the eye of the people who blindly follow what they are told. Perhaps this is the most important song of the album. There is no disguising the meanings of the lyrics “Direct me so I can find my way through the obstacles ahead ’cause I believe all that you’ve said, Daily Liar” Per Captain Sensible, “For his own selfish reasons, Trump started a discussion about ‘fake news’, but it’s one that some might say has been long overdue.” No doubt a true statement regardless of your political views.
Wrapping up the latest masterpiece from The Damned is “I Don’t Care” Is this a song of political disaffection or a song of a love gone wrong….or both? It could easily fit either subject. With its piano and horns, it is a far cry from The Damned of the late 1970’s but it is certainly a glimpse of the sweeping vista that is the 2018 version of The Damned.
The Damned begin a US Tour starting October 17th. For dates and locations, please check out http://www.officialdamned.com/tour/ and don’t miss seeing one of the iconic bands of the early UK punk scene!
Review by Rich Russo