The Damned – Machine Gun Etiquette

In November 1979, just as I turned 10 years of age The Damned released their third studio album Machine Gun Etiquette on Chiswick Records.

Gone was prolific songwriter Brian James and the band had split and regrouped as The Dimmed, The Doomed and Les Thugs. Captain Sensible switched to guitar, Algy Ward was recruited to play bass and The Damned rose again.

Production from Roger Armstrong coupled with the new line-up gave the band a new sound and although not hugely removed from their original sound they spectrum of sound was a lot wider. Ed Hollis produced alternate takes which do, if anything, sound even better than the takes on Machine Gun Etiquette.

The album has somewhat of a 2nd Wave of Punk feel about it, granted it was at the very fore of the 2nd wave but who better than the band who’d released the first punk single in the U.K to do this.

The album cover, rear and inner sleeve look truly great. Somehow the artwork captures the fun aspect of the album. Gone was the more garage feel of the first two albums and the band arguably embrace experimentation and just straight up pop in equal measure along with a healthy shot of punk.

Love Song with its spoken word brief intro of “Ladies and Gentlemen, how do” from Jack Howarth is a total Damned classic. Sounding like a party in full-effect instantly a rumbling bass charges the song and it simply blasts at the listener. Dave Vanian sounds like a vocalist in fine form.

Machine Gun Etiquette is an ode to the band reforming and really could / should be called ‘second time around’. Short, fast, shouty and loud its not as strong as the album opener but it is certainly no filler.

I Just Can’t Be Happy Today sees The Damned move hugely away from the sound on their first two albums. Incredibly, this is no band thing. Dreamy lyrics and a hooky chorus, musically keyboards are more prominent in a Damned song than ever before. Another Damned classic.

Melody Lee with its piano intro launches into a near Motorhead blast. The punk cartoon imagery wins and The Damned sound more punk than metal, and they always will do I guess.

Anti-Pope is playful and mocking in a schoolboy manner. This is no Crass song and is playful, daft, tuneful and fun in equal measure.

These Hands rolls in like a circus act. Slightly disoriented sounds and more dreamy vocal delivery offer a weaker song but one that sits well on Machine Gun Etiquette. The track captures a cinematic theme years before this was widely used in East Coast Hip Hop albums via Dr. Dre. ‘Stop Laughing’.

Plan 9, Channel 7 and now The Damned have firmly moved on. A poppy MC5 anyone – they pull this off much better than one would anticipate.

Noise Noise Noise is another classic. Rumbling bass and the tracks just simply scorches away with more cartoon lyrics.

Looking At You sees The Damned wear their influnces clearly. Again the band prove just how well they can actually play. Captain Sensible is on fine form for this MC5 cover. The cover has remained in Damned live sets for decades which really says something.

Liar is a rawcus punk blast that works even if it is one of the weaker songs on the album.

Smash It Up Parts I & II is yet another Damned classic. If you have ever seen The Damned live (post the recording of this song) then you will know what a sheer joy it is. The slow, loomy intro launches into a bounce-a-long to end all bounce-a-longs before punk pop at its very finest.

I have only ever known the album retrospectively after hearing it about aged 14. Machine Gun Etiquette is a classic album even if it is very different to the bands first two classic albums. Almost a different band, but somehow still the very same. It is an album that is hard not to just totally love.

“Nibbled to death by an okapi…”



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