In July, 1985, The Damned released their 6th studio album Phantasmagoria. The album, somewhat strangely, would become their most commercially successful release. I guess this is down purely to timing. No other of the original Punk outfits were really going or going strongly. With some major line up tweaks The Damned headed where they’d never really been before – The Charts.
I bought the album on day of release after school, because, I loved The Damned. That trip to Virgin Records on Bull Street in Birmingham, before the Megastore days grabbing that gothic looking record and just wondering what it would sound like on the bus back home.
In truth the album was not what I had imagined. It is however a band doing their own thing and with the added bonus of time elapsing now a fair representation of alternative mid 80’s sound if not typical of a Damned album in general.
Phantasmagoria is a good album, it’s just so far removed from what went before that it’s almost like another band. To an extent they were bold enough to just run with this and somehow they crossed over to a band all of a sudden your Mum would listen to. That’s possibly a criticism yet the album certainly has its moments.
Street Of Dreams is probably the strongest track on Phantasmagoria. With that 80’s sax it snarls and snakes about before giving way to a phoenix like Pop rising from the Goth flames. Rat Scabies rattles the drum kit with more ability than ever. It’s a sanitised deliverance but somehow has the spirit of those long gone Punk blasts. Notably when listened to via a iPhone the screen will read “Street Of Dre” so they kinda beat NWA to it!
Dave Vanian comes to the fore on the plodding chart ditty Shadow of Love. Whilst not without its charm it’s no favourite of mine. Likewise on There’ll Come A Day which does feature lyrics that would get you a C- in English Language classes.
On Sanctum Sanctorum the Goth style goes into overload. Piano, moody, yet oh so lacking. Is It A Dream another hit single from Phantasmagoria features more painfully bad lyrics. “Then suddenly, like a fly in a cup of tea, I am stirred and no longer free, to fly awaaaay!” Yup I’m panning this but somehow I still love the album!
Grimly Fiendish and well one thing you cannot deny The Damned of is belated chart success. It does sound like Madness but that’s not a totally terrible thing. Edward The Bear sung by Roman Jugg is a lift, a silly one yet harking back to Strawberries era Damned and is despite its flaws – quite charming.
Power Goth Pop for The Eighth Day. It’s a nice rattle and Vanian sounds comfortably in his element. Nice guitar runs and again Scabies pads around the kit well.
The Damned have never truly enjoyed the commercial payout they really deserve. Whilst other key original Punk bands have crossed over into TV advert payout success, or turned that down notably in the 2nd Wave with the Dead Kennedys refusing Levi’s offer to use Holiday In Cambodia for a 501’s ad, etc. The album closer for Phantasmagoria – Trojans listening to it now just screams 80’s style Grand Theft Auto soundtrack to me. Whist sounding nothing like The Damned it has its merits Miami Vice and all. I really should dedicate this post to Bryn Merrick.
A nostalgia blast to revisit on occasion from a great band – Phantasmagoria…