Black is the Night
BMG Rights Management
Getting into punk years ago, the Damned were a mystery to me. They had more compilations and live albums than actual studio albums, which were impossible to find at the time. Growing up in Bradenton, Florida might have had something to do with that. Finally hearing their shambolic debut album and Machine Gun Etiquette I got what all the fuss was about.
Now, at the tail end of 2019, the Damned have released yet another compilation, spanning the band’s earliest raucous punk through their baroque goth period to their later material, culminating with a new song. Does the world really need yet another Damned anthology?
Actually, it might.
The order isn’t strictly chronological, which actually works in the band’s favor. Poppier, more baroque songs exist next to the ramshackle songs from their earlier career, showcasing the range and diversity of the band. The songs you want are all here (“Neat, Neat, Neat,” “Smash It Up,” “Love Song,” etc.) although where’s “Anything?” Wasn’t that a hit? A lot of stuff from the underheard
The spaghetti western-inspired (with a nod to “We Gotta Get Out of this Place”) “Black is the Night” closes the collection. Dave Vanian’s crooning vocals still sound amazing, and hopefully this is song portends a new album.
Sure, rabid fans will find omissions or problems (like, if you’re going to include an early cover, why not “Help!” or “Ballroom Blitz” instead of “White Rabbit?” And I’d like to hear more of the band’s surprisingly good post-’80s output), but Black is the Night is an excellent starting point for newcomers, or a nice collection for oldtimers of songs they might have missed the first time around.