Album Review: The Damned – “Evil Spirits”
The sole survivors of British punk’s original big three, this is no less than The Damned’s eleventh album. While their one time peers the Pistols burned brightly before exploding very messily, and The Clash took the formula to the mainstream only to disintegrate amid chronic infighting in the mid-’80s, The Damned just kind of never went away (apart from a break in the early 90s), slowly letting their sound evolve through psychedelia and goth. The band went through various line-up changes before the current incarnation, headed up by Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible, arrived at their current sound which pretty much mixes all of their past elements together to decent effect, as witnessed on their previous effort, 2008’s So Who’s Paranoid? and its predecessor 2001’s Grave Disorder.
Evil Spirits has been a good two years in the making, and also sees early 80s bass wizard Paul Gray returning to the line-up after a 20 year absence. In terms of the sound, it’s kind of a cross between the psychedelic pop of Strawberries and the garage rock inclinations shown on So Who’s Paranoid?, indeed, opener and current single Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow definitely recalls A Nation Fit For Heroes which opened the previous album. Devil In Disguise meanwhile has a definite hint of The Doors about it, with Monty Oxymoron’s swirling keyboards dominating the track. Recent years have seen The Damned’s work take a bit of a political bent here and there (echoing Captain Sensible’s solo output in the 80s), and there’s evidence of that on Evil Spirits as well with We’re So Nice skewering the British mustn’t complain mentality, and Look Left taking a justified swipe at tabloid press culture.
Truth be told, Evil Spirits does tail off a little bit in the middle, with tracks such as Shadow Evocation and Procrastination being passable but a bit throwaway. However, The Damned do at least save their two best efforts here for last with the six-minute Daily Liar being a well-aimed punk blast of fury at the state of Britain today, while the sinister I Don’t Care starts off as a stark piano ballad before amping things up to bring the album to a satisfactory conclusion.
Maybe more of a solid album than a spectacular one, Evil Spirits is a bit patchy in places but like its two predecessors is a decent 21st century Damned album. The good bits show that these veterans have got quite a bit of fire left in the tank and have plenty still to say. Hopefully the wait for the next album will be a bit less than a decade this time!