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Music Review: The Damned – ‘Damned, Damned, Damned: 40th Anniversary Edition’

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My introduction to The Damned and Damned, Damned, Damned, the compact little half-hour of punk perfection that is the U.K. group’s debut album, came courtesy of a fan email written to Henry Rollins. The music and writings of Rollins came into my life in my mid-20s, but they single-handedly alerted me to the fact that there was this broader music scene out there that I’d been missing: namely, punk rock. Obviously I knew punk rock existed and even had a few favorite songs by bands such as The Clash and The Ramones, but my fascination with Rollins led me to listen to the albums he recorded as the frontman for Black Flag, which immediately let me onto the fact that there were punk bands, and then there were punk bands.

Black Flag, for instance, was a punk band in that it was a band of punks just throwing about and playing loud music that made them FEEL something – which in turn made people listening to them FEEL something and react accordingly. Whether it was to dance like a madman in a mosh pit or drink or whatever – this version of punk music showed me the power of music to really free yourself of a lot of worries in life and just be in the moment with the band and songs.

Anyways, as I said, eventually I gathered up the courage and sent Mr. Rollins an email telling him what a big fan I was and how he’d opened my eyes to the wider spectrum of punk music and asked him what 10 albums or so he’d recommend to someone wanting to expand their mind and ears as far as punk or new-wave music was concerned. It was a pipe dream email and I never expected a response. I would have been happy as hell to just know that he “might” have read it one day.

Well, read it he did, and he also answered my question and gave me a list of 13 albums he thought should really give me a nice starter sampling of the kind of music I was talking about.

What album was the one he put at the top of the list? Damned, Damned, Damned.

Whether he meant that to signify the album was his number one example of what a punk album should be or whether it was simply the first one that popped into his head, I’m not sure. But being the OCD kind of music fan that I am, I took that list as a literal listening order list and promptly bought each album and planned to spend time listening to all of them in rotation for a good long while.

The fatal flaw with that plan, however, was the fact that I found myself simply hitting repeat again and again on the first album, as it was so damn good. Damned, Damned, Damned was this perfect little gut punch of youthful energy and “Who gives a damn?” spirit that it just raced up and down my spine and had me tapping my foot and wishing I’d found this music as a teenager so that I could properly have the energy to slam myself around and DANCE as this music seemed to demand.

It’s such a flawless little album that I’ve continued to enjoy in the 15 years since that reply email turned up in my inbox. It should be no wonder then that I jumped at the chance to listen to – and babble about – the new 40th anniversary release of that recording.

The first thing I noticed was how bright and vivid Brian James, original guitarist for the band and writer of 10 of the album’s dozen tracks, sounded and how sharp and powerful Captain Sensible’s bass guitar was as it powered right long side of him as the album played. Although, maybe that should be reversed a bit, as it’s really Captain Sensible’s incredible bass line for the opening track “Neat Neat Neat” that sets the stage for what’s to come. The song and album itself quickly explodes into action and never looks back.

The only plan of action on this record, it seemed, was just to rock. Nowhere on it will you find the political oomph of The Clash, the tough but tender harmonies of The Ramones, or the sheer blow-it-out-yer-rear bombast of the Sex Pistols – they just play and thank goodness for that.

If you are a fan of punk rock, then you more than likely have a copy of this album somewhere, so this might not be an essential purchase, you’d think. I think that the clarity on this album and the immediacy of the music despite the four decades since its recording makes it essential. Turn on the radio to any supposed rock station and listen to one or two songs and then press play on any two songs from Damned, Damned, Damned and you will hear what I mean.

They don’t make records like this anymore.

If you don’t have it – buy it. If you have it but not this new anniversary edition of it, give your older copy to the library and buy this one.

No need to thank me for once you do, though, as all credit goes to Henry Rollins.

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