Evil Spirits

by: The Damned

One of the reasons the Damned's early work has dated better than many of their contemporaries from the first wave of U.K. punk was their disinclination to deal with the events of the day. While other groups wanted to sing about dole queues and a repressive government, the Damned wanted to smash things up and have fun doing it, rock & roll themes that have stood the test of time. So it's just a bit surprising that 42 years into their career, the Damned seem to have developed an interest in the world around them. Released in 2018, Evil Spirits doesn't transform the Damned into Crass, but this sounds like the most socially conscious album the group has released to date. Here, the Damned sing about the precarious state of mankind ("Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow"), dangerous attitudes on all sides of the political spectrum ("Look Left"), the casual cynicism of the powers that be ("We're So Nice"), and corrupt forces at work in the media ("Daily Liar"). Dave Vanian doesn't exactly sound like he's mounting a soapbox on these tunes, but he sounds sincere and his polished but forceful instrument remains strong, while Captain Sensible's guitar work is both skillful and sharp. As one might expect at this point in the Damned's career, Evil Spirits is far more pop than punk, but it's a catchier set of tunes than 2008's disappointing So, Who's Paranoid?, and the slicker and more goth-leaning elements at play are somewhat tempered by the garage rock leanings of Monty Oxymoron's keyboards and the R&B-influenced bass work of Paul Gray. And producer Tony Visconti keeps this sounding like a first-class exercise in contemporary record-making without squeezing all of the life out of it. Hardly a late-career masterpiece, Evil Spirits at least shows that the Damned are still smart and witty while paying attention to the global chaos of the era of Brexit and Trump, and they haven't lost their touch in the recording studio. ~ Mark Deming

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.