The Damned - Machine Gun Etiquette (Cover Artwork)

The Damned

Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)


One of the originators of the British punk scene along with The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, and UK Subs, The Damned are one of the few who have endured through the years, albeit overcoming some break-ups and innumerable line-up changes. Playing their first gig in 1976 with The Sex Pistols, these innovative souls who were the first British punk band to tour in America, actually just played Warped Tour 2002 and released a record on Nitro in 2001 entitled Grave Disorder. How's that for persistance and resiliency? Briefly stated, The Damned are the definitive punk/goth band, giving way to those present princes of darkness, AFI and have influenced tons of other bands as well.

In any case, on this, The Damned's third record, the line-up consists of the vampiric Dave Vanian on vocals, Captain Sensible on guitars, Rat Scabies on drums, and Algy Wards taking up bass duty. This is a ferocious release with one great track after another. They kick things off with the chaotic, fast-paced "Love Song," a classic, with Vanian's distinctive goth-tinged vocals. The second song, "Machine Gun Etiquette," is also fast and furious with breaks in between the action that are highlighted by booming, almost militaristic-sounding drums. Another notable track is the incomparable "Anti-Pope," with a phenomenal breakdown featuring outstanding percussion, a catchy bass line, and dissonant guitars. And with Vanian's frantic vocals, "Religion doesn't mean a thing. It's just another way of being right wing," the rebellious defiance is blatantly obvious, and along with the music, it's truly revolutionary. Rounding out the top picks are "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," the memorable "Melody Lee" with its piano intro that morphs into guitars and drums played at breakneck speeds, and "Smash It Up (Parts I and II)". "Part I" exhibits The Damned's evolving musicianship as it serves as a slow instrumental lead-in to "Part II," which is quicker and kind of pop. Yet, with its bold lyrics about smashing everything to pieces, it definitely never lacks a punk edge.

This disc, with its raw and edgy sound, is extremely diverse, and also hints at the direction The Damned would take their music in the future. For instance, many of the songs have a mysterious quality to them. "Plan 9 Channel 7" touches upon the goth sound they would later embrace on records like Phantasmagoria, The Black Album, and Grave Disorder. On the same note, "These Hands" must be the most frightening song I have ever heard in my entire life. The lyrics about a "demented clown" sung in Vanian's eerie voice, backed with that strange circus music and finally ending with Vanian's nightmarish, maniacal laughter is extremely disturbing, to say the least. I cringe just thinking about it.

So, if you're looking for some good, innovative punk by one of the best bands ever, sink your teeth into Machine Gun Etiquette. It's The Damned at their best, attacking your senses with a barrage of great tunes while defying all convention.