Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Maybe you have seen people that are diagnosed with it in school. You know, the annoying suck up, bratty spoiled kids that get whatever the hell they desire outside of school. They seem to be know-it-alls in the classroom, yet they are remarkably stupid for such people. You know who I’m talking about, admit it. Well, chances are, if that person talks a lot and never knows when to settle down, or never concentrates, they have ADHD. Well, think of that disruptive, disorderly behavior, only with guitars, and a somewhat legible voice. Sound awkward? Well, that description is about all you need to know about The Damned. The name might seem familiar, because they were basically the forerunners of British punk rock. Under the lead of bassist/ vocalist Captain Sensible, and with their chief songwriter/ guitar player Brian James, The Damned were one of the very first British punk rock acts, second only to the Sex Pistols. In 1977, their debut Damned, Damned, Damned proved to mark them as one of the preceding fathers of punk rock. It fit all the credentials as to what the criteria of punk required- Lots of distortion, snarling vocals, wit, political criticism, and most of all, simplicity and fury. At just over the thirty minute mark, Damned Damned Damned was supplied brevity with all the fire and filth you would expect from lower class British kids. Sounds annoying? Good, because that is exactly the intention that the trio put into the making of this record.
If you have never given punk chance because it is far too raucous for you to listen to, Damned Damned Damned is exactly what you’ve been trying to avoid. Captain Sensible takes on an infuriating sort of role of a ‘Jesus, I want to shoot this guy’ persona, using more than an inept voice to beat the *** out of your brain.
Before I get into his cynical personality that is portrayed through lyric, I’d like to describe how sloppy his vocal performance is. He slurs, he moans, he screams, and he definitely gets to the best of you with his peculiarly deep, yet throaty voice. The closest analogy that comes to mind is Joe Strummer’s vocal performance on The Clash’s ‘Clampdown’. Although he possesses one of the sloppiest voices in punk, his wit cannot deny his talent as a lyricist. He takes a very bold, cynical approach, using media controversy and sarcastically crude crime statistics as subject matter for his lyrics. As a bass player, he is more than adequate, but really does not get the limelight that you’d expect from the introductory song to the album.
Neat Neat Neat is punk’s very first explosion of sneering bass, which is backed by a volatile flare-up from the rest of the band. Rhythmically, he is ample and creative, yet does not refrain from leaving the pocket, only keeping on beat with drummer, Scabies- A wild drummer who owes as much to Keith Moon as he does to the Sex Pistols. From his stop start drum fills which are completely out of place, to weird, slinky beats, Scabies adds a touch of flare to what would otherwise be dull and atrociously heavy, with no creative divergence from countless other crappy punk bands. Brian James’ guitar playing is essentially, the foundation from which the Damned create their sound. His raw, distorted power chords, which [thankfully] stay clear of three chord box patterns, are heavier than life and possess a raucous quality that makes moshing easier than eating. A Stooges’ cover of ‘I Feel Alright’ is an added bonus. Albeit watered down and less grooving than the original, The Damned do a very nice job, and do not manage to lose any of the song’s natural energy and rock n roll finesse.
Variety is not a strong point on punk recordings. And this record is absolutely no exception. Unlike the Damned’s later recordings, which feature grandiose organ playing and an influence from circus music, Damned Damned Damned is about as straightforward, basic, and unvaried as punk can get. The average recording time is between two to three minutes, and never exceeds one or two key changes, following the usual verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-verse-chorus pattern that everyone uses these days. Variation on Damned Damned Damned is seldom heard, but that doesn’t make it any less of an album. In fact, the flaws make it even better to listen to, because you know that a precedent is being made with all this ***ing up.
Cynical, volatile, and impulsive are all words to describe the ***ed up individuals who make up The Damned. Sarcasm is more of an ally than a foe for this trio of hot-blooded British punks. Angrier than an Australian skinhead, or a retired war veteran, The Damned have a message. Their message is more gestured with a middle finger, rather than spoken, but filthy punk songs work just as well. Snarling vocals, growling, crooning, screaming guitar riffs, and rambunctious drumming are all individual methods of expressing hatred for conformists. Thankfully, the Damned decided to use melody, as well. If you have always hated the atmosphere of punk, and given the finger to all the people who like it, I suggest you listen to this. Not because you will like it- never because of that; you’ll hate punk even more because of this record- Only because The Damned have given you a reason to hate people. And therefore, ironically, you really are a punk.