Rychard Carrington reports on The Damned - The Junction, 10 Dec 2006

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
Only the newest members, drummer Pinch and bassist Stu West, look like seasoned punk troopers. Dave Vanian looks like a dapper Mafioso. Keyboard-player Monty Oxymoron looks and moves like a goofy Crackerjack version of a 60s hippy. Captain Sensible looks like his most distinctive self, in sailor's outfit, red beret and dinky shades.

While many in the audience might have wanted an hour and a half of relentless punk thrash, in fact the majority of the numbers were more stylishly tailored in a camply gothic psychedelic vein, somewhat Arthur Brown come to think of it. Sensible, a long-standing devotee of the psychedelic and even of prog rock, has evolved into a classy lead guitarist, and centred around Sensible and Oxymoron were both some well-structured rock melodramas and some pleasing loose acidesque interludes. This breadth and versatility provided a context that gave their revered old punk tunes that much more vitality. It was a winning curiosity to hear a twiddling instrumental work-out towards the end of Neat, Neat, Neat, followed by Love's Alone Again Or, followed by Eloise. Throughout the set clips from classic black-and-white horror movies provided a fitting visual backdrop. Furthermore, Sensible's off-the-cuff comments always fascinate. He cares and thinks more than you'd expect from an ostentatious eccentric. Tonight he mentioned Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion, encouraged everyone to turn vegetarian for Christmas, and rightfully called our prime minister a fucking shit (I ironically recall our loud cheers for Sensible's enthusiastic greeting of the Labour victory at a solo gig in 1997): his own political party, Blah, is a quintessential Sensible combination of the crazy and the surprisingly sincere and politically sound.

In short, there's a lot more to The Damned, and Sensible in particular, than the accolade of having released the first British punk single and album. They were and are a great punk band, but it's their slightly incongruous other attributes that smarten their appeal.

Writer: Rychard Carrington