I’ve just listened to The Damned’s “Music for Pleasure” again after a multi–decade hiatus. It sounds to me far better now than it did when I last heard it, more than twenty years ago.
I’d better explain that. I sold most of my LPs at the beginning of the dreadnoughts. I rebought a number some years ago (I’d catalogued my second collection before it became an ex), but for some reason missed this album. It was only whilst trawling emusic a couple of days ago that I saw the familiar, distinctive and rather impressive cover, and realised my mistake. I rebought it immediately.
The pure pieces of short punk still stand up. The Damned were together and could play well. It was great to hear the familiar opening track, Problem Child, again. Incidentally, I was surprised to hear its references to hipsters, given the word has come to mean distaste for people who don’t have the good fortune to be the journalists writing the distaste (plus ça change). Anyway, the point is that such tracks are pure 70s youth punk, and they’ve lost neither their power nor their relevancy.
But what’s particularly good with this album for me now is The Damned’s conversation with avant jazz. Lol Coxhill, the jazz saxophonist, guests on one track (“You Know”), but The Damned show themselves perfectly capable of the avant conversation themselves elsewhere on the album. Not only do these tracks give the album a powerful range of styles, they make it timeless.
It’s this conversation that explains why I find this album more powerful now than I did twenty years ago. I mentioned I found it on emusic. Well, that’s also where I found and started to explore avant–garde jazz. Most jazz I’d heard before then, beyond my dad’s collection of swing 78s, was soporific stuff best used to euthanise animals. Jazz in the UK, at least the live jazz I heard in the UK, made the concept of dire sound actually quite attractive. Fortunately, I moved to Antwerp and discovered that living jazz still lived. Then I wandered into to emusic and found avant–garde jazz, and liked what I heard. Now I’ve gone back to a London album of my youth and discovered—well, I clearly missed some good jazz in London. It’s a pity I didn’t know to look for it, it’s a pity I presumed the dull jazz my contemporaries played at me was all the jazz that was left. That’s why this blog entry is a belated thank you to The Damned in more ways than one.
The one problem with the album is the production. Now, fair enough, punk production wasn’t sophisticated, and the garage ethos is fine by me. A real problem lies in the overdubbing of some lyrics. The texture of the splice is wrong. I suspect there was a slight disagreement somewhere over the need of the substitution. Anyway, the result detracts from the recording, like disinfectant detracts from beer.
Despite this minor irritation, I really like this album. I’m going to pick up those Damned’s albums I don’t already own over the next couple of months, so much as I can.