As promised, we bash into 1977 with the sound of change. Starting in February, we get the first full-length UK punk rock album from The Damned. This album was produced by Nick Lowe and is the #5 rated punk rock album by loudersound.com.
It is ironic that just two days ago we were discussing Led Zeppelin and their 30-minute rendition of “Dazed and Confused”, as it is exactly that kind of indulgent excess that punk rock violently pushed back against. The real irony, as I was hinting at, was that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were actually both big fans of The Damned and their raw energy and frequently went incognito (as much as those two guys could) to see them play. Punk rock, which broke out in 1977 in a big way, has always been a complicated genre for me as I think I have mentioned it before. Underneath all the anger, aggression and intense fury, it still needs to be good musically in some way for me to appreciate it. With each new punk rock album, I hope I’m not listening to whatever band finished in 4th place behind Alice Bowie at “The Rock Fight”. (If you know, you know).
To be fair and honest, this album concerned me the first time through. I wasn’t getting much to dig into, and I was concerned I was going to struggle here. To make sure I didn’t jump ship too early, I made sure to give it 2-3 good listens in the car on a longer drive home tonight, and I have to tell you, by the 3rd listen, I was definitely hooked. Some songs more than others, but this band could bring it. Simple punk rock power-chords and rhythm frenzy, but there are many diverse sounds as well. I quickly honed in on the first song, “Neat Neat Neat”, which proved to be their most popular song on the album. That song would easily qualify for my Top 10 list of new songs (to me) I have discovered on this journey.
The rest of the album, while not quite at that level, was everything I could have hoped for in a highly acclaimed punk rock record. Fast and intense, but with great musical structure and creativity, songs like “Born to Kill”, “Feel the Pain”, and “New Rose” stood out above the crowd. On the streamed version (which is not on the original album) there is even a great punk cover of “Help” by the Beatles. Led by guitarist Brian James, and one of my favorite musician names, drummer Rat Scabies, this band could deliver as promised and I can only imagine what the energy must have been like at an early show in the UK.