Live at Shepperton 1980

by: The Damned

Originally released as the fourth side of the double vinyl Black Album, Shepperton got its own identity and a few extra tracks along the way a couple of years later. For a band that's produced a fair share of live releases over the years, it has to be said that most of them are pretty good, and this is no exception. With then new bassist Paul Gray in place, the foursome performed in the city in question at a special fan club only show (though first album classic "Fan Club" in fact isn't here, ironically enough). Coming off their successful Machine Gun Etiquette comeback album as they were, the members were in fine spirits, which shows in both the good selection from throughout the group's career and the overall performance. Most selections come from Etiquette, with the remaining three coming from the band's earliest days (the Music for Pleasure era is overlooked entirely, and deservedly so). Kicking off with the gloriously hilarious "Love Song" and Etiquette's title track, here retitled "Second Time Around," Shepperton shows how the restructured line-up, with Sensible on guitar, allows for a greater variety than Brian James did. Not that the band's original songwriter was chopped liver, but Sensible can and does essay everything from balladic strumming to full on nuclear attack, as the performance of both parts of "Smash It Up" shows. Vanian is his usual crazed, great self (perhaps with a slightly lower tone here and there), Scabies is the drum king of punk nonpareil, as the brief drum solo on "Neat Neat Neat" shows and Gray knows his business on the low end. Highlights include a fine rip through "Melody Lee," which a markedly different opening from the studio take, an extended take on the MC5's "Looking at You" which includes a lengthy psych/jam section in the middle, and a climactic run through "Plan 9 Channel 7" to wrap it up. ~ Ned Raggett

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