Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: The Damned's 'The Chiswick Singles… And Another Thing'


After the ever-volatile Damned disbanded after 1977’s disappointing Music for Pleasure on Stiff Records, they soon regrouped (minus Brian James) for a two-year stint with Chiswick in 1979. Poppier, Gothier, The Damned were, indeed, a new band, and they created some of their very best work for the label: the L.P.’s Machine Gun Etiquette and The Black Album and several singles with exclusive B-sides. Late last year, Chiswick collected these 45s onto a new CD called, self-explanatorily enough, The Chiswick Singles… And Another Thing. With the bulk pulled from songs already included as bonus tracks on Chiswick’s essential editions of Machine Gun Etiquette and The Black Album, this comp isn’t great value. Plus the new-remastering job is too fucking loud. The Damned never needed help making listeners feel agitated, so the added volume is particularly unnecessary.

The Chiswick Singles… And Another Thing does have a selling point, and it’s a huge one (hint: it’s the non-Chiswick “other thing” in the CD’s title). This is the first time the great “Friday the 13th” E.P. has made it to CD since the 1993 comp Tales from the Damned, which is long out of print. Perhaps the E.P.’s four cuts have been MIA so long because they were The Damned’s only recordings for NEMS records and there were rights issues. Whatever the case, it’s great to have them back (particularly since my vinyl copy of “Friday the 13th” warped mysteriously several years ago). This is one of The Damned’s very best hidden treasures. The uproarious “Disco Man”, with its melody so similar to that of Family’s “Peace of Mind”, has been a staple of the band’s live sets for decades. “The Limit Club” is a haunting fan favorite in the Black Album vein. “Billy Bad Breaks” is pogoing power pop, and a cover of “Citadel” realigns The Damned with the ‘60s psychedelia they so adored and reasserts the fact that The Stones hardly went soft when they made Their Satanic Majesties Request (check out Captain Sensible’s multiple impassioned defenses of the album in the comments section of this article!) .

The Chiswick Singles… And Another Thing has a few other recommendable oddities, such as a slightly longer mix of “Suicide” and non-Chiswick oddities like the momentous Damned/Motörhead collaboration, “Over the Top”, and a fiddle-adorned version of “Anti-Pope” from the “There Ain’t No Sanity Clause” single that was oddly left off the extended Black Album CD. The booklet is well annotated by Roger Armstrong and full of great photos. But The Chiswick Singles… And Another Thing earns its “must have” status for one reason only: the “Friday the 13th” E.P.

Get The Chiswick Singles on Amazon.com here:
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