Anything [Bonus CD] [Bonus Tracks]

by: The Damned

After Captain Sensible left the Damned in 1984 when his solo career took off with the freak success of his single "Happy Talk," Dave Vanian took over the creative reins of the group, and he began nudging their music in a direction that reflected his growing interest in the goth movement. The Damned's flirtation with goth led to them signing a major-label deal for the first time and enjoying one of their biggest commercial successes with the 1985 album Phantasmagoria. But if that album found the Damned looking gingerly in a new direction, 1986's Anything was the sound of Vanian and company falling down a well; fans were probably savvy enough not to expect the Damned to sound like a straightforward punk band by this point, but most of Anything barely even qualifies as rock & roll. The solo keyboard piece "The Portrait" bears an unfortunate resemblance to Nigel Tufnel's "Lick My Love Pump," "Restless," and "In Dulce Decorum" meander at length for all their thunder (and John Kelly's echoing production makes everything thunders if it's meant to or not), "Gigolo" suggests a failed merger of pop and prog rock, and "The Girl Goes Down" is a faintly ridiculous song that borrows from a number of vintage pop styles without distinction. Only "Psychomania" and the title cut generate anything approximating the energy of the Damned's best music, and it's telling that easily the best song on the album is a cover, a reasonably faithful rendition of Love's "Alone Again Or." The Damned began to crumble after Anything, and the band broke up for a spell in 1989; somehow it all seemed fitting after releasing the worst original album in the group's catalog. [In 2009, Island/Universal released an expanded version of Anything that managed the impressive feat of making the album even more tedious than it was in its original form. Along with the nine songs from the 1986 release, the expanded Anything (which swells the album to two CDs), includes 15 bonus tracks, among them two interminable 12" mixes of "Eloise" (the shorter of them clocks in at 7:49), three similarly pointless remixes of "Anything", a live recording of "Psychomania" that improves on the studio cut but not by much, and a silly cover of John Barry's theme tune to Beat Girl which still manages to outclass nearly every other bonus track on this set. You don't make a bad album better by offering more of it, and this expanded version of Anything proves it.] ~ Mark Deming

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