Album Review: The Vibrators – “Past, Present And Into The Future”
2016 saw UK punk originals The Vibrators celebrating 40 years together as a band, and they decided to mark the occasion by recording what can probably be best described as the mother of all reunion album projects. At present, drummer Eddie is currently the only original member of the band still in the touring line-up, with bassist Pete Honkamaki and guitarist Darrell Bath (also of The Crybabys, Dogs D’Amour, UK Subs and some damn good solo albums) joining him. However, for Past, Present And Into The Future, Eddie has got back together with the line-up from the first two albums with Knox returning on vocals and guitar (taking some time away from running his excellent Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue charity shop in Camden), Gary Tibbs (who went on to be in Adam & The Ants and Roxy Music) returning on bass, John Ellis (who you may also remember from 90s era Stranglers) coming back on guitar and original bassist Pat Collier behind the production desk.
The album is split, with four songs featuring the current line-up, and the other ten featuring the classic one. With Knox, Ellis, Bath, Tibbs and Honkamaki all contributing on the songwriting front, it makes Past, Present And Into The Future a very varied album and certainly the strongest effort from The Vibrators for quite a few years. While there’s plenty of the short sharp punk that made their Pure Mania and V2 albums two of the best of the era such as R’n’R Rescue and Strangers Never (Friends Forever), there’s also quite a few tracks which hark back to their more under-rated early 80s albums like Guilty and Alaska 127 such as the tight reggae of Ellis’ A Life Badly Lived and Knox’s moody mid-paced Loose Change and Dark Star. Dirty Games and Wrapped Cat even have a hint of rockabilly about them, while Bath’s two contributions Wild Cheetah and Hand Of Mercy bring back good memories of his time with The Crybabys.
One of the best things about The Vibrators in the early days, in this writer’s opinion anyway, was that they had three established songwriters (Knox, Ellis and Collier) in the band, all of whom had very different and distinctive styles which always made their albums a very engaging listen. When Ellis and Collier left in the late ’80s leaving Knox to carry the load on his own, although the albums were still good, it kind of felt a bit like the extra dimension had gone a little bit. Having an album like this with five songwriters could have gone either way, but full credit to all involved, Past, Present And Into The Future might just be the strongest Vibrators album for a good 25 years. Not a bad way to mark your 40th anniversary, that’s for sure.
Past, Present And Into The Future sees The Vibrators marking 40 years as a band in style with a very strong effort. Loaded with a great variety of tunes from all five songwriters that you'll be happy to come back to for repeated listening, it only goes to prove what an under-rated group this lot are. Well worth a listen.