Sound: As the first English punk band to do a lot of things (release a single, tour the States, break up), by the time they'd reformed and released "Machine Gun Etiquette", they were already being written off as a footnote in the scene. This album shut a lot of mouths. The Damned were always more punk in their approach than in their actual sound. Sure, their classic debut was all blinding barre chord and doublestop fury, and "Music For Pleasure" sounded like they recorded it while asleep, but it was here that The Damned came into their own as serious contenders for the punk rock crown. Their founding guitarist was gone, so the modestly named bassist Captain Sensible took over six string duties, and brought a world of new textures and dynamics to the fold.
Dave Vanian found his voice on this album, too. His baritone croon always seemed a counterpoint to the music in the past. Here, it integrates flawlessly, providing humor and even some soul to the outfit. Rat Scabies, to this day, is one of rocks all-time most underrated drummers, at times making Keith Moon sound like Phil Rudd. Gone were the one minute songs that came from nowhere and slashed your throat. Here was a new entity that wanted to lull you into a sense of security with lush arpeggios, mid-tempo instrumental passages, and even sexy balladry before slashing your throat. The band still had its fangs AND its sense of humor intact, too. The title track even directly addresses the bands detractors with its lyrics of "Don't you wish that we were dead/Second time around- Back to haunt you with our sound/Second time around". Captain Sensible proves to be a much better guitarist than Brian James was, and the arrangements are far more interesting. With this, their third album, The Damned claimed their stake at the top of the punk pile, and they even invented Goth in the process. Oops. // 8
Lyrics: Dave Vanian, with his baby-powdered face, frilly shirts, and long overcoats, single-handedly invented the singer-as-vampire persona, and his lyrics often reflect his interest in dark, romantic imagery. Then again, of course, the albums opener, "Love Song" features the lyric "I'll be the paint on the sign if you'll be the tin". He wasn't trying to be Baudelaire all of the time. The uptempo songs feature the most playful lyrics, while the more atmospheric numbers let him croon away in the bell towers of his mind- we get to listen, too. // 9
Overall Impression: There's not a bad song on the album. There are three covers which, truthfully, are probably the weakest tracks. Well, except for their version of Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz", which is probably even sillier than the original. "Plan 9 Channel 7" is epic in its theatricality. "Melody Lee" begins with a gorgeous piano intro before fuzzblasting into an ode to a comic book heroine. "I Just Can't Be Happy Today" is an apocalyptic tale of the worst day ever. Truly, a bunch of classics that holds up better than most of its contemporaries 35 years down the road. // 9