“This is very much a ‘pop’ album,” The Damned’s brilliant guitarist Captain Sensible told me in a recent interview that graced these very pages, and he’s right. Arguably, they haven’t released anything as commercial as Evil Spirits since the mid-eighties when ‘Grimly Fiendish‘ was riding high in the charts and Phantasmagoria was a big selling long player.
But that doesn’t mean it’s by any means throwaway, far from it, as the band ponders the state of the world in general at this moment in time. “While everybody’s looking left, what the hell is happening right?” sings Dave Vanian on ‘Look Left‘, leaving listeners in no doubt as to which side of the political spectrum they stand, the new album being released quite neatly at a time where the right have been throwing bricks at Jeremy Corbyn for supposed ‘anti-Semitism’ in order to deflect the glare of the general public away from whatever human rights document they’re tearing up this time or which services they’re decimating now.
It’s not just May and her cronies who are having the boot put in though. ‘We’re So Nice‘ is very much an attack on Blairite imperialism. It’s a ridiculously infectious tune that probably wouldn’t have sounded out of place on their 1979 masterpiece Machine Gun Etiquette, and I’m pleased to say there are many, many such standouts here. Like ‘Sonar Deceit‘, for instance, which begins something like a long lost Motown classic yet is also reminiscent of ‘Sign Of The Times‘ from Madness‘s 1981 album ‘7‘.
Of course, you’ve probably already heard the stupendously thrilling opener ‘Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow‘, ominous clouds seeming to part to reveal glorious sunshine, as though the future holds excitement for our punk/goth/pop (take your pick) heroes, rather than fear. There’s a real sense of defiant optimism here.
The title track showcases Captain’s splendid axe-wielding talents as Vanian laments that “it feels like nothing’s changed” – another contemptuous nod, perhaps, to the never ending merry go round of feckless leaders and misplaced trust. Despite the fact that it’s now well over forty years sinc the band formed (though granted, there have been personnel changes along the way), they’ve lost none of that fire and spark that drove them in the first place, hence you get the epic piano led ‘Shadow Evocation‘, which holds such a tempestuous aura that you feel like your wig is going to fly off at any moment. Not that I wear a wig, honest.
Ultimately, Evil Spirits is packed with important message, but the real take home message here is “Have fun. And don’t let the bastards grind you down.” which, simplistic as that may seem, is probably all the advice you’re ever truly going to need.
Evil Spirits is released on April 13th through Searh And Destroy/Spinefarm Records.