The Black Album [Deluxe Edition]

by: The Damned

The fact that one of its songs is called "Hit or Miss" is quite appropriate for the double-vinyl Black Album; while not perfect, it's definitely got some high points on it. Given the intentionally parodic reference to the Beatles' own two-disc sprawler, perhaps the semi-schizophrenia is perfectly intentional. Some of the numbers show the Damned following their original punk vein, but by this point the four (joined here by a new bassist, Paul Gray) were leaving straight, three-chord thrash to the cul-de-sac revivalists. The album begins with a Damned classic, "Wait for the Blackout," a dramatic psych/punk surge infected with Dave Vanian's glorious croon, celebrating the joys of the night while steering clear of overtly serious goth affectations. After that, things start to vary, but tracks of note are still thick on the ground, including the Captain Sensible-sung "Lively Arts," a nicely barbed take on culture with some harpsichord to match, and the goofy but still enjoyable "Drinking About My Baby." Regardless, things get a bit restful at points, and while Vanian often steps forward to continue carrying it along, sometimes even the band isn't happy with the results. "History of the World (Part One)" has always carried the credit "overproduced by Hans Zimmer" because they felt the guest synth player did just that! However, the final two studio tracks are doozies: "Therapy," a Sensible/Vanian-sung romp with a great chorus, and the side-long "Curtain Call," perhaps the most unlikely thing the Damned ever did. That said, it's still a surprisingly good blast, a tour de force for Vanian particularly, and a chance for the band to try everything from straightforward rock to gentler atmospherics. [The 2005 Deluxe Edition includes an additional CD of bonus material.] ~ Ned Raggett

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