According to none other than Lemmy Kilmister, The Damned were “the only real punk band” from the first wave of the genre. Motörhead's fearless leader even played in the band, briefly, under the Doomed moniker, and would, he said, have joined them if anyone had thought to ask.
But for all their punk classics, part of the beauty of The Damned is that they were not – and are not – just a punk band. In the span of a 46-year career involving countless splits and line-up changes, the Londoners basically did whatever the hell they wanted - helping to invent goth, for one thing - becoming bona fide legends along the way.
Here's their (mostly) esteemed catalogue ranked.
11. So, Who’s Paranoid? (2008)
While some Damned albums are clearly lacking (guitarist) Captain Sensible’s sensibilities, it’s fair to say that this stinker has far too much of the bugger. It’s no secret that he has a fondness for ‘60s psychedelia and Abba, but mixing the two, as he seems to have done here in writing most of the songs, is a horrible mistake.
Drummer Pinch and bassist Stu West both shine (when they’re allowed to), but it’s not until track eight, Perfect Sunday, that you get to anything even vaguely listenable. And even that’s not great, just a blessed relief after wading through the rest of this bilge. Some reviews have suggested that it’s a grower. But so is cancer.
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10. Anything (1986)
Having reached Number 3 in the UK charts with the non-album single Eloise, The Damned hastened to the studio at the insistence of their record label to capitalise on their success. Unfortunately, they were completely unprepared, and were forced to write most of the album on the spot, finding themselves bereft of ideas. The result, as one might expect, is mostly awful.
Granted, the album sold reasonably well, but aside from a cover of Love’s Alone Again Or, which still get a regular live airing, and the vaguely hummable Gigolo, the rest is turgid at best, and plain boring at worst. Such was their lack of inspiration that they couldn’t even come up with a proper album title, so for want of a better idea... “Oh, call it anything.”
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9. Not Of This Earth (1995)
Following an extended hiatus – at least from the studio – attempts were made to get another solid Damned line-up together, with original drummer Rat Scabies writing new material alongside various random musicians. They then attempted to get Dave Vanian involved, which he declined, before changing his mind after it was suggested that he was replaced by Robbie Williams. Robbie Williams? Seriously?
Either way, Not Of This Earth was apparently not intended to be an official Damned release and although it’s far from the abomination many would have you believe, it is somewhat patchy and somehow generic, even though that shouldn’t be possible for The Damned.
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8. Evil Spirits (2018)
In typical Damned fashion, it only took them 41 years to crack the UK Top 10, peaking at number 7, as they did with Evil Spirits, their 11th and most recent album. Deservedly so given their legacy, although in all honestly, it’s not even close to their best.
Produced by Tony Visconti, best known for his work with David Bowie, it was, according to Sensible, recorded with a deliberately retro style. Which is all well and good if you have the songs to match, but opener Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow and Devil In Disguise notwithstanding, it really doesn’t, with only those two songs performed live with any regularity.
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7. Phantasmagoria (1985)
The Damned’s sixth studio album, and their first album sans Sensible, saw them going full goth, with Dave Vanian’s deep timbre coming to the fore, scoring them their highest charting album thus far, reaching Number 11 in the UK charts.
A world apart from previous punk albums, and successfully shedding much of that audience, it is, however, supremely well-constructed, the likes of Shadow Of Love and the six-and-a-half-minute Sanctum Sanctorum (complete with dramatic rumble of thunder) summoning dark winter nights. Even though the album was released in July!
Granted, the all-too-cheery Grimly Fiendish is a misfire, rather spoiling the sombre mood, and Edward The Bear has no business being anywhere near the album, but overall Phantasmagoria is rather special and has stood the test of time remarkably well.
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6. Strawberries (1982)
It’s 1982 and punk rock is at its most apocalyptic, all Discharge and Crass and the Exploited, so of course the Damned knowingly do the complete opposite and offer up a pop record with cellos and sitars on it.
On paper it should have been a disaster, especially since the working title, Strawberries For Pigs, was an acknowledgement that their notoriously rabid fans would fail to give it a chance and just keep on smashing it up. But while some fans did just that, others couldn’t help but admit that, well, it’s a great album. Incidentally, that whole argument about Nirvana ripping off Killing Joke’s Eighties with Come As You Are is rendered moot by Life Goes On. As always, The Damned got there first.
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5. Grave Disorder (2001)
If we discount Not Of This Earth as a proper Damned album (which they do), it had been 15 years since a studio album was released under the Damned moniker. But with Sensible back in the fold, and clearly reinvigorated by the addition of new keyboard player Monty Oxymoron and drummer Pinch (formerly of English Dogs), along with Vanian’s wife Patricia Morrison (ex-Gun Club/Sisters Of Mercy) on bass, they came back firing on all cylinders with album nine, released on Nitro Records, the label owned by The Offspring's Dexter Holland.
Lookin’ For Action harks back to the early punk days, while elsewhere there are shades of Strawberries and even Britpop, although The Damned probably invented that too.
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4. Music For Pleasure (1977)
The Damned’s second album (and their second in 1977), the aptly named Music For Pleasure, is without question their most underrated. Even by the band themselves! Quite what’s wrong with their ears, and those of the critics who largely panned it at the time, is anyone’s guess.
Spawning such greats as Problem Child, Stretcher Case and Alone it perhaps lacks the urgency of their debut, but even on slower tracks like Your Eyes and You Know you can still feel the teeth-grinding speed that was fuelling the sound. And let’s face it, it was a bold move getting Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason to produce the damn thing at the height of punk. Critics be damned, indeed.
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3. The Black Album (1980)
So what do you do when you’ve put out three near-perfect albums? Put out a fourth, make it a double, and completely change the direction of the band, that’s what.
With former Eddie and the Hot Rods bassist Paul Gray replacing Algy, our loveable chaos merchants set about inventing goth with tracks like Twisted Nerve, and got hammered with Drinking About My Baby, while still retaining their punk edge on Sick Of This And That. They then filled side four with the 17-minute masterpiece that is Curtain Call.
The Beatles may have given us 'The White Album', but the Dammed gave us The Black Album, and a year before Metallica had even formed, incidentally.
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2. Damned Damned Damned (1977)
Beating the Sex Pistols, The Clash, et al to the punch, the Damned’s magnificently messy debut, recorded in just 10 days and released in February 1977, is the first UK punk album. Ever. So, no pressure, then.
But, kicking off with Neat Neat Neat, it’s safe to say they smashed it out of the park, setting the benchmark for decades to come. Written almost entirely by then-guitarist Brian James it shows a clear Stooges influence – including a cover of the Stooges 1970 renamed I Feel Alright – but the sound is all Damned, beautifully chaotic, with each band member trying to outdo the rest... especially on the all-time great New Rose, the UK’s first punk single. 31 minutes and 32 seconds of perfection!
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1. Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)
Choosing between the two best Damned albums is rather like a parent choosing their favourite (evil) twin.
Having split up and reformed, however, on this, the band’s third album, Sensible moved over to guitar and they introduced new bassist Algy Ward (formerly of The Saints and later of Tank), a man whose Motorhead obsession shows heavily in his playing. Alas, due to infighting with Scabies, he lasted just one album, but what an album, arguably their creative peak.
Spawning such classics as Love Song, Melody Lee, Anti Pope and Smash It Up, it saw the band regularly bothering Top Of The Pops and wrecking everything with a legendary appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test. 42 years later, it remains one of the greatest albums – punk or otherwise – ever made.
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