Apart from a semi-legitimate collection of demos and things in 1996 called Not Of This Earth, The Damned have been quiet on the album front since releasing Anything in 1986. The band have split, reformed and reshuffled more times in the last decade (let alone the 1970s and 1980s) than they themselves probably care to remember, and their 1990s discography was pretty much a wasteland of dodgy compilations and live albums.
Now here comes the latest version of The Damned (comprising Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Patricia Morrison, Monty Oxy Moron and Pinch) with Grave Disorder, their first proper studio album in fifteen-odd years (the aforementioned demos disc notwithstanding), released on Nitro Records, the label managed by Dexter from Offspring. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not a bad album at all, perhaps even better than you might expect.
Grave Disorder offers a fairly good cross-section of The Damned’s styles and themes, politicised punk (“Democracy?”), the criticism of religion (“Amen”), ruminations on fame (“Would You Be So Hot [If You Weren't Dead?]“, “Neverland”), plus fond Goth-tinged nods to the B-movie monsters of the past (“Beauty of the Beast”) and absinthe (the thereminned-up “Absinthe”). For a bunch of 40-something punks, The Damned do a pretty fine job, perhaps leaning a bit more heavily on their 80s Goth aspects than their 70s punk ones. There’s a judicious use of samples among the keyboard work, and Dave Vanian is in simply fantastic voice; that striking baritone he developed in the 1980s is in full force here.
The main problem the album has, apart from a couple of rather generic tracks, is that the band have a tendency to let some of the songs drag on just that bit longer than they should. Consider second track “Song.com”, a slightly cheesy but otherwise joyous pop song which is one of the better three and a half minute pop songs of recent years. It’d have been somewhat better, though, had they brought it in around two and a half minutes instead. Similarly, “She” “Looking For Action” and “Would You Be So Hot” also all go on for probably a minute or more longer than they really need to. The songs aren’t fatally damaged by their over-extended endings, but they’d have benefitted from a bit more editing and tightness.
Apart from that, Grave Disorder is a welcome return from The Damned. It’s not perfect and it’s probably not a great album as such, but it’s a worthy bit of entertainment nonetheless, and it certainly doesn’t disgrace the band’s memory as much as the Sex Pistols’ recent jubilee show seems to have done. Recommended.