Machine Gun Etiquette [25th Anniversary Edition]

by: The Damned

Rejoining forces without James, who pursued his own interests from then on (only hooking up with the band again for a late-'80s "farewell" show), the remaining three brought in young Saints veteran Alastair Ward on bass, recorded an album, and hoped for the best. That best proved much better than expected; while singles ended up on the charts, Machine Gun Etiquette itself was deservedly hailed as another classic from the band. Over time, its reputation has grown to equal the original Damned Damned Damned; while no less strong than that record, the Damned here bring in a wide variety of touches and influences to create a record that most of their contemporaries could never have approached. The group's wicked way around witty punk hadn't ebbed a bit; the opening cut, "Love Song," is a hilarious trashing of romantic clichés (sample lyric: "I'll be the rubbish, you'll be the bin!") that barely lasts two minutes, while "Noise, Noise, Noise" and "Liar" work in the same general vein. These, however, only scratch the surface. "Melody Lee," written by the Captain for a favorite comic character, starts with a lovely piano intro, whereas the celebratory angst of "I Just Can't Be Happy Today" chugs along with garagey élan and keyboards à la the Electric Prunes. Other prime standouts include "Plan 9 Channel 7," a Grand Guignol of an epic about James Dean and Vampira with a fantastic Vanian vocal; the merry mayhem of "These Hands" (belonging to a killer circus clown, with appropriate carnival music, of course); and a great rip through the MC5's "Looking at You." The best moment was saved for last, though: "Smash It Up," a two-part number divided between an affecting instrumental tribute to longtime supporter and Captain hero Marc Bolan, and a perfect trash-the-rules-and-party pop/punk/R&B scorcher. [In 2004 Chiswick released a 25th Anniversary Edition that included all of Machine Gun Etiquette's single B-sides, alternative versions of all three A-sides, and the video for "Plan 9, Channel 7."] ~ Ned Raggett

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