Maybe you had your ear to the ground, and found the Damned when they released “Damned Damned Damned” in 1977. Maybe you were introduced to the band by its lunatic performance of the hard-charging “Nasty” on an MTV rerun of squalid British slacker comedy “The Young Ones” during the late ‘80s. Maybe you stumbled across the Damned during their afternoon blast through “Smash It Up” at 2015’s Riot Fest, and wondered how you could have missed them all this time.
It matters little how you found the Damned. If you’re a fan, the chances are you’re not a casual one. Led by original members Captain Sensible on nimble, buzzsaw guitar, and the vampiric baritone of Dave Vanian, the band invites devotion from fans of bratty punk and tuneful goth-rock. The band has the bona fide credentials to earn their loyal following. They claim status as the first British punk band to release a single with 1976’s “New Rose,” followed by their debut album that now celebrates its 40th undead birthday.
In time for the celebration, an “Art of the Album” anniversary deluxe edition of “Damned Damned Damned” has been released. As ever, cuts like “Neat Neat Neat” are “made to be played loud at low volume.” The band’s trendsetting fusion has been described after the fact as the Ramones meet Bauhaus, with identifiable influence on bands ranging from Green Day to Guns ‘n’ Roses.
The Damned promises its first album of new material since 2008’s “So, Who’s Paranoid?” this year. The band has been reluctant to preview new songs on its anniversary run, but has been playing a generous string of songs from 1979’s riotous and witty “Machine Gun Etiquette.” The frenetic “Love Song” still fits well alongside older-sibling cuts from the debut. A souped-up cover of Love’s psych-pop classic “Alone Again Or” is another treat on many Damned set lists.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.