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The Damned - Black Is The Night: The Definitive Anthology (BMG)

30 August 2019

For the last 42-years, The Damned has been a constant force in music. The punk innovators have survived line-up changes, implosions, solo-projects and further implosion. One thing has remained however which can never be outdone, and that is their legacy. In truth The Damned were the architects of the revolution, what punk was, and the direction it was heading. When speaking of this band there are a lot of premieres to consider, the first to chart a punk single with “New Rose” in October 1976. The first UK punk band to tour America, and play the blank generations ground-zero in New York’s CBGB’s.

Since the release of that first album in February 1977, the game changing Damned, Damned, Damned, second in my own opinion to X-Ray Spex Germfree Adolescents and well ahead of the Pistols NMTB. There followed a plethora of quality releases until a very uneven eighties period. Indeed, this year marks the fortieth anniversary of Machine Gun Etiquette, an album which will outlive many of that year. 

The initial collective of  Dave Vanian, Brian James (London SS), Captain Sensible, and drummer Rat Scabies was the golden period of the band and most widely celebrated moments. Skip ahead to last years Tony Visconti produced Evil Spirits, The Damned’s eleventh studio album, and one which garnered the best reviews of an album in thirty-five years, with Vanian and Sensible the only original members from that explosive heyday. 

With that in mind, they still knocked out a cracking album bringing the name and music of The Damned screaming into the 21st century. To follow on that success comes a new anthology, the double-CD, four-Lp Black Is The Night. An album of 39-tracks, curated by the band with one new addition, the title track. Though there is one glaringly obvious question, Does the world need another Damned ‘Best Of’? 

The short, swift answer is no, and here is why. Since 1981, when the first Damned compilation album came out, The Best Of The Damned until 2005’s Play It At Your Sister there have been thirty-one releases of oddities, singles, box sets, radio sessions along with fifteen official live albums not to mention deluxe album reissues. So on the face of Black Is The Night there are 38 tracks representative of The Damned’s career, and achievements, except for a few omissions. 

The first absence is anything from the lukewarm but interesting Not Of This Earth (1995) which featured a version of the band minus Sensible, but the last record with Scabies, although brought in to guest was Glen Matlock and James Taylor (The James Taylor Quartet). This compilation features no tracks from that mid-nineties curiosity, nor does it feature any snippet of So, Who’s Paranoid (2008). While the album received mixed reviews Record Collector magazine stated it is a “beautifully controlled blend of melody and dynamic”. Regardless of how the band may view these releases they still show The Damned at a moment in time, so for the good and the bad, omissions from these albums is questionable. 

However, a saving grace or another aspect view of compilation number thirty-two is that it will introduce the band to the millennial generation, acting as a discovery tool for those (unlike myself) who did not follow the band for decades. It is an anthology, not fully representative, and perhaps it’s Halloween (1st November) release date is keeping with the Hammer Horror image the band project. It does coincide with the Night Of a Thousand Vampires at The London Palladium show which happens on the 28th of October, perhaps this is the soundtrack to that show. Nevertheless, Black Is The Night is another release by the premier punk band, one which at it’s very core, reasons and critics aside, that reminds audiences of their brilliance. 

Love Song
Wait For The Black Out
I Just Can’t Be Happy Today
Bad Time For Bonzo
White Rabbit
Melody Lee
Smash It Up Pt 1 & 2
New Rose
Machine Gun Etiquette
Neat, Neat, Neat
Stretcher Case Baby
Sick Of Being Sick
Born To Kill
Rabid (Over You)
Problem Child
1 Of The 2
So Messed Up
Disco Man
Fan Club
Plan 9 Channel 7
Grimly Fiendish
The Shadow of Love
The History Of The World (Part 1)
Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde
Streets Of Dreams
Curtain Call
Alone Again Or
Lively Arts
Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow
Stranger On The Town
Fun Factory
Under The Floor Again
Black Is The Night

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