by Nick Feratu of The Limit Club.


The DamnedPhantasmagoria

 Rating = (4.5 out
of 5 stars)

The Damned have gone through many phases in their disorderly
career. They started out as one of the first British punk bands, along with the
Sex Pistols, The Clash, Generation X and countless others. The Damned would (unlike
the Clash) take a decidedly non-righteous, fiercely undisciplined rock and roll
attitude toward their craft. The original lineup featured Rat Scabies literally
setting things on fire in the background, Captain Sensible and Brian James
flailing about and screaming in the audience’s face while flanking either side
of the stage and Dave Vanian stalking the front while howling and crooning in inimitable
vampiric fashion.

But by the time “Phantasmagoria” hit
the shelves, those days were long behind them. The lineup had been shaken up
about a half dozen times, Captain and Brian James had both left the band to
pursue other interests and the band’s sound had matured to an almost
unrecognizable degree. Gone were the speed-punk thrashers, replaced with
brooding Goth ballads and poppy sing-along choruses. The wild, off-the-hinge
punk years seemed long behind and only the experimental aspect remained from
the music of the band’s early years. Looking back over the band’s musical
output, one could see a clear progression into the late 80’s MCA era sound that
dominated the album. From the early, unpolished Garage Punk of “Damned Damned Damned” and “Music For Pleasure” into the slightly
more refined work on “Machine Gun
” and straight into the Psychedelic buzz of “Strawberries” and “The Black
” which carried only a hint of the original punk sound. The natural
evolution of the band clearly pointed to the gloomy Goth pop on “Phantasmagoria” and it’s follow up album

As horrible as it may sound to some of you, the
metamorphosis from a straight forward punk rock band to a poppy British Goth
band allowed The Damned to create some of their most staggering music. This
entire album is like the soundtrack to a dream. Not a pleasant, fluffy love
dream either… “Phantasmagoria” sounds
like a surreal, feverish nightmare. Like some sort of drug-induced
hallucination on a hot summer night.

The album opens on “Street
of Dreams
” with a questionable solo saxophone… like something out of a black
and white film noir, but suddenly the song explodes into a crashing B-minor
chord with heavy Goth organs and a rumbling bass line. You immediately know you
are listening to The Damned when Dave Vanian’s voice descends into the mix… “If you can’t sleep tonight, and if a fever
grips you tight, there’s a place we must explore – Open wide the door
”. The
song continues with haunting sing-along choruses and does not relent until
fading into the next track – “The Shadow
of Love”.
Track two starts with a low growl from some sort of unholy beast
and a simple, but effective guitar riff by Roman Jugg (who is tragically
underrated as a guitarist in my opinion). Scabies picks up the swing-shuffle
beat shortly thereafter and the bass trots along while Dave croons one of the
best vocal tracks of his recorded career.

The third track, “There’ll
Come a Day
” begins in a similar, glorious fashion focusing on Roman’s
effortless guitar work and Dave’s melodious vocals, but with added fragments of
harpsichord piano in the background to add to the surreal overtone. The next
track “Grimly Fiendish” is a strange
bit of psych-out weirdo pop that only a band like The Damned could create. The
bizarre, child-like choruses of “Bad lad, bad boy” sound like something off an
elementary school playground.

Tracks seven and eight are both airy pop songs, “Edward the Bear” featuring Roman Jugg on
vocals while “The Eighth Day” returns
the microphone to Master Vanian. The next track “Trojans” is a boring instrumental track, and the only track on the
album that I almost always skip, which brings the vinyl version of “Phantasmagoria” to an unexciting close.
But I have both the vinyl version and the CD version, so I am treated to two bonus
remixes – “Grimly Fiendish” and “Shadow of Love”. The remix of “Grimly” differs only slightly from the
original adding a few extra choruses and breakdowns and a sample of a cash
register slamming closed at the end of the track (I’m almost sure the cash
register sample was an intended joke by the band. They had to know that
die-hard fans would still pick up the remixed version of the song, even though
it was essentially the same track, which equals more money for them, with only
minimal effort necessary). And finally the best track on the entire album – The
Ten Inches of Hell” version of “Shadow of Love”. This time, Scabies does
not fuck around with the drums. He hits them hard and solid as soon as the
track begins. Once the beat is laid down, a heavy synth rhythm track is thrown
in with the country swing bassline and the heavily echoed vocals. The track
extends to over five minutes with added refrains, choruses and a guitar solo or
two. The album comes to a suitably spooky close with the sound of a desperate,
panting female and a werewolf howl. 

has been out of print in the US for over ten years, but I’ve recently spotted
brand-new reissues of this album in record stores. I advise you all to track
one of the little bastards down and add it to your record collection. It’s
completely fucking essential. 


  1. Street of Dreams
  2. Shadow of Love
  3. There’ll Come a Day
  4. Sanctum Sanctorum
  5. Is It
    A Dream
  6. Grimly
  7. Edward
    The Bear
  8. The
    Eighth Day
  9. Trojans
  10. Grimly
    Fiendish [The Bad Trip Mix] (CD only)
  11. The Shadow Of Love [10 Inches Of Hell
         Mix] (CD only)

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