Thursday, March 30, 2017

RECORD OF THE DAY: THE DAMNED - MACHINE GUN ETIQUETTE




Let's see if I can keep this up: every day I will post a Record Of The Day, with hopefully a link to the full album in question. Some of these recordings will be obscure, some blatantly obvious. I guess this is born from an activity related to my work, in which I attempt to plug a record I'm pushing in the shop, though let me say this once: this blog is not related to the shop in any way, and nor will these posts be.

40 years on from the year 1977, and for me it looks like The Damned, and possibly the Buzzcocks, come out the winners. My love for Never Mind The Bollocks not withstanding, both The Damned and the Buzzcocks managed to rip out three absolutely amazing and wildly different full-length recordings during 1977/1978/1979 which still hold up today. Let's talk The Damned. The debut is indisputable. Rough, raw, shambolic, funny, unrelentingly high-energy: it was everything punk rock promised. The follow-up is still under dispute, and for that I can't fathom a reason. Produced by Pink Floyd's Nick Mason - they wanted Syd Barrett - when the band was in turmoil, it has long been considered a dog, badly produced and lacking inspiration, and whoever's been pushing that barrow for nigh on four decades now is clearly WRONG. The production is cleaner than the debut, but not to any point where it suffers. It's simply crisper, but it still has punch, and the material is there in spades. If you've been avoiding it for years due to bad press, more's the pity.

1979's Machine Gun Etiquette was seen as their comeback disc, but since I've just stated that thier sophomore effort was of no shame, let's just say it's the third classic in a row. Brian James was out, Captain Sensible was moved to guitar and ex-Saints and future Tank (what a pedigree!) bassist Algy Ward hit the four-strings. Punk/rock/pop/psych - it's all here. It's rambling, messy, raw and inspired, jumping from slop-pop ('Smash It Up', "I Just Can't Be Happy Today') to a raucous MC5 cover ('Looking At You') to high-energy PUNK (the 1-2 punch of 'Love Song' and the title track) to more psychedelic excursions they would pursue further with The Black Album, there is not a second wasted on Machine Gun Etiquette. Fuck. More than the Pistols or The fucking Clash, The Damned were the English band who influenced US hardcore the most. The Damned were one hell of a fucking band. Amen.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greg Ginn told me that he was partial to this. Fact!

Pig State Recon said...

I like this one-record-review-a-day challenge, Dave! And do love the LP you've started with. I always reckoned this to be the beginning (not end) of their great songwriting period, continuing through The Black Album and Strawberries which I also love. But at this point, The Damned still had that early, rippin' punk attack, so it's extra-special. I love the way drummer Rat Scabies often tears into these songs a bit too fast; it's like he's so excited to get em going, he just can't help himself. Cause they're SUCH AMAZING songs: "Love Song," "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," "Anti-Pope" the immortal "Smash It Up" and so many more. I don't rate their MC5 cover, but I understand why it's important, since there weren't too many others (English or otherwise) covering great pre-punk tunes this early.

And of course you are right: the English band most influential on US hardcore punk, esp. of the West Coast variety.