Half a century of Anarchy and Chaos and a bit of downtime as well to be fair, but in the main, The Damned have never let me down and when their output has been; shall we say less than palatable they’ve delivered live over and over and they’ve kept evolving and therefore keeping themselves relevant as they move into the twilight years disgracefully still making new music and hit or miss doing it their way and I love that about the band. A friend once described The Damned as his Beatles or Elvis and I totally got that because their my Rolling Stones as well God Bless them and all who sail under the Damned flag.
Anyway ‘Darkadelic’. Seemed to rise like a phoenix with the first couple of tracks leaked out into the ether with videos and like Marmite fans either loved it or loathed it there can be no in-between it would seem. The recent tour they’ve undertaken was punctured mid-set with the whole album played in its entirety and for some it was unwelcome and for others (like me) it was most welcome (let’s be honest here whilst its always nice to hear New Rose and Smash it up I want to hear new songs especially if they are decent and that’s where I have to begin these songs are indeed pretty bloody decent).
This is not The Damned who released ‘Machine Gun Etiquette those days are gone – time moves on and that is their past neither is it The Damned who hit paydirt during the MCA years of lift music and if I’m honest I didn’t much like the last studio outing either but this is a more focussed record, a more energetic record and the songs stand tall and have plenty of punch that was certainly missing off the last release. These guys don’t sound like men who should be on their allotments rather than making a racket in Acton studios weaving their Gothic, psychedelic ditties that have melody and relevance in the year 2023.
Starting with the mid-paced ‘Invisible Man’ is Vanian rolling back the years and delivering a masterclass in Gothic vocal and melodies that is instantly recognisable whilst Sensible again shows he has the chops that he probably doesn’t get enough credit for as far as openers go this one is strong.
One of the songs that worked best on the recent live shows was the energetic ‘Bad Weather Girl’ where a Sensible vocal works best and the swirling keys add atmosphere to a top tune punctuated by that unbelievably hypnotic flurry of bass notes courtesy of the maestro Paul Gray as the song weaves its course through some impressive soloing from the Captain. To follow it up with the riff-heavy ‘You’re Gonna Realise’ with its sumptuous chorus that changes gears in a classic Vanian way and the trinity of Sensible Riffola meets Gray’s thump topped off with Vanians ear for a twisted melody is majestic.
Next up is the Damned doing their best political commentary on ‘Beware Of The Clown’ built around another impressive chop from Mr Sensibles six-string as Gray weaves in between the strokes. There is more than enough dirt being spat from the speakers as Vanian strokes your ears with his lush deep tones.
So far so good, I hope we’re all sitting comfortable and used the bathroom as ‘Western Promise’ has a ‘Black Album’ meets ‘Phantasmagoria’ feel to it. Another excellent vocal for Vanian. That Gothic haunting style the band do so well jostles to be heard on ‘Wake The Dead’ and half way through this record and I’m quietly impressed so far. This record is instantly gratifying and also slow burning therefore messing with my reviewers ear. I’m waiting for the next one to maybe hit the buffers but its not happening and there is a little voice inside my old head screaming at me, “this si why I love the Damned” they deliver the good when I wasn’t expecting it and thus far in there is no filler only songs that are taking me to various places through their career and dumping me in the here and now 2023 The Damned are churning out excellent songs on an excellent album and I love it.
‘Follow Me’ is a bonafide garage rock stonker. Then, follows that with the barking rabid dog that is ‘Motorcycle Man’ and give to give Monty his props he fingers a mean swirling Garage organ (oo-er Mrs) throughout and it’s not overpowering but sympathetic to the songs and works a treat adding another texture to the most welcome guitar heavy songs. ‘From Your Lips’ lays back as the penultimate offering is lowering the heart rate with yet more sweet solos that elevate already impressive songs.
Finally we reach the end and ‘Roderick’ sees Vanian get his brushes out to paint one last gothinc masterpiece, his tongue firmly in his cheek for a candlelit finale of epic, not too overstated grandiousity that only the Damned can get away with and once again Vanains vocals deliver sounding like a man half his age. since James left Vanain moved forward from the shadows and grew into his role and has spent the last 30 years showing why he is at the top of his trade and has no equal, a masterclass of dark arts and velvet smooth tones a great twist at the end of a very impressive album.
It’s been a crazy half-a-century journey for Vanian and Sensible and all who sail on the good ship Damned. If this is to be their last studio recording then they’ve delivered a smouldering, punchy masterclass, at times sensitive others astute and always on their terms. God I love the Damned and ‘Darkadelic’ is a welcome release into a catalogue that has more ups than downs as well as a smattering of magic moments that haven’t been equalled by anyone. It once again shows how bloody good they are at their chosen craft. Long Live The Damned and their Darkadelic brilliance.