Smash It Up: The Anthology 1976-1987

by: The Damned

Of the first wave of British punk groups, the Damned got there first, and stuck around a lot longer than the vast majority of their peers, leaving behind a large and sometimes puzzling recorded legacy -- playing the band's first single ("New Rose") and their last ("In Dulce Decorum") back to back, you'd be hard-pressed to guess that both tunes were credited to the same act. Smash It Up: The Anthology 1976-1987 is an ambitious two-CD set which attempts to present a coherent picture of the band's initial run over the course of two and a quarter hours, and for the most part it succeeds. Unlike the fine Damned retrospective The Light at the End of the Tunnel, Smash It Up was programmed chronologically, not thematically, and while the previous collection attempted to document a continuity in the band's music, Smash It Up instead portrays the group as constantly growing and evolving, mutating from speed-addled punk marauders into a surprisingly radio-friendly blend of pop, goth, and hard rock at journey's end. Smash It Up also has just about all the "hits" you could ask for, and while some of the lesser-known cuts on The Light at the End of the Tunnel added shadings to the picture, this collection not only serves the band's history quite well, but also the evolution of their profile in the world of music from upstarts to veterans of the pop charts. (One major gaffe, though: Is there anyone outside of the Damned's most rabid circle of fans who really wants to hear the 17-minute neo-psychedelic marathon "Curtain Call" ever again?) A thorough overview for beginners and a fine selection of fave cuts for fans, Smash It Up: The Anthology 1976-1987 does right by the Damned, a particularly nice thing for listeners in America, where much of their best work has received spotty distribution at best. ~ Mark Deming

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