The Damned – Evil Spirits

The Damned – Evil Spirits, Review

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Friday the 13th seemed like a perfect day to release a Damned album, the much talked about “Evil Spirits” was finally released to the masses after a very successful pledge campaign. In the last 42 years the Damned have gone through a number of musical directions this being another path to follow, with two of the original members still establishing and plotting the due course of the band. Of course, The Damned will always be held in the highest of esteem for their early creations, with ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ heralding their last great Punk years before looking beyond those raucous boundaries. The Damned are also somewhat fortunate in that they have collected audiences from all their musical phases over the years, with a venue full of people all looking to different decades of tunes to get excited about. As well as the much publicised troubles involving record companies, managers and in house fighting, they may also have suffered from the various changes in the musical direction leaving them without a pigeon hole that fits them in the commercial music business world.

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The new album “Evil Spirits” has had the magical touch of Tony Visconti to attend to its every whim, bringing all his experience to a band that he may not have touched with a barge pole when “New Rose” broke some moulds back in 1976. Is this now the missing ingredients needed to elevate them to another mainstream level and beyond to finally become greatly recognised outside Punks unwavering adulation? Or maybe it’s another case of a band not truly aware that they bring music for pleasure to so many people from a past they would prefer to leave behind.
Play: The Damned – Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow

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The familiar chorus of “Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow” introduces the new era, being released before the album as an appetiser, it has a 60’s feel to the intro that I think carries on throughout the whole album. There is a lot going on in the background of this song that’s not initially heard; sounds are being explored and discovered throughout the track with Pinch, Monty and Paul Gray all having a place to excel although discreetly. The addition of Gray on Bass is a masterstroke that the Damned should make permanent; the unique sound he creates would be a highlight of any album they wanted to create. There is very little evidence of the Damned’s early years on “Evil Spirits” that would satisfy a noise-loving ear, the closest we get is a slightly rebellious guitar from the Captain where he seems to be restrained by Visconti’s tight reign. “We’re So Nice” is one such occasion that has the Captain pulling the 6 strings, but in a controlled manner of a gentleman in his later years and unfortunately not as the Captain of old, leaping around in a pink tutu attacking his instrument. Political content has not been a big part of the Damned’s makeup in years gone by, but “Look Left” touches on the state of the political world today from the other direction. Dave Vanian has always had one of the most recognisable vocals, which eventually took on another form when they released “Eloise” and on this album, he takes this even further almost morphing into a 60’s crooner at times. He tells a story in his soft dulcet tones before a big build up to the chorus, letting Monty loose on the keys tossing his curly mane around like an off the rails aging Harry Potter. The title track “Evil Spirits” carries on the 60’s feel as the Captain steps up to the front with his fretboard, with Pinch brushing the cymbals and keeping the momentum but unfortunately I think they also managed to record Monty falling downstairs with his keyboard as the song trails off into the distance. The album leaves us in a finale fit for a West End Musical, where I half expected a troop of dancers dressed as cats to come out my speakers for “I Don’t Care”. Dave’s isolated vocal behind a solo piano might be the tipping point for Punks to ‘smash it up’ as his dark velvety voice brushes and caresses your eardrums till the end.
Play: The Damned – I Don’t Care

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Probably the most predictable thing about the Damned is their unpredictability, which is a trait not carried over on to their 11th studio album “Evil Spirits”. The band were very positive before its release claiming how they had captured the sound they were aiming for, and at the hands of Tony Visconti they had got more of vintage feel that was very much a success. Do we now put the final nail in the coffin of ever hearing Machine Gun Etiquette Part 2, eventually realising that this should have been done 8 albums previously as the band had other musical directions to explore? Despite bringing out a few interesting tunes that please a substantial number of music lovers, they seem to have been trying to jump the wall to the acceptable side for a number of years now, occasionally getting a quick look over with songs like “Eloise” but someone kicks the ladder away before real recognition is achieved at that level.

I look on “Evil Spirits” as another attempt to scale the brickwork of mainstream music and using Visconti as a leg up this time, it may satisfy some of the loyal unmovable black army but falls short again in terms of what’s really wanted by the bands core followers who turn up at venues around the UK year in year out. Its very nessisary for bands to change and adapt as the years go by, but its also important to keep hold of the magic ingredients that elevate them to legendary status in the first place without dismissing it completly.  After gaining their chaotic reputation up to the release of “Machine Gun Etiquette” I thought they would have been kicking and screaming all the way to the grave despite their advancing years, not slipped into a cravat-wearing smoking jacket and comfy slippers to a soothing bedtime tune, is it now time for the Damned to prepare for their last curtain call?

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