[Review] The Damned: Phantasmagoria (1985)

The Damned return from the grave with a new album of gothic new wave music, but where is the Captain?

Kronomyth 6.0: Thinly fiendish.

Order be damned, this is the first Damned album that I bought. Damn, damn, damn. Not that it’s a bad record, but the band’s original punk principles had been abandoned in the interim for a sort of gothic Adam & The Ants sound. Like The Stranglers’ later music, the songs are often very good but the arrangements too studied.

Some listeners really enjoy this record, supposedly those whose love of darkness runs only skin deep, and I can’t begrudge them their mild mucking about in the graveyards of the gentle nobility. But in my personal vision of the underworld, there’s no place for Gary Barnacle’s saxophone, no sanctuary for the nasal psychedelia of “Edward The Bear.” On the other crawling hand that wouldn’t die, “Sanctum Sanctorum” is as cold and creepy as a crypt, and the spaghetti western refugee “Shadow of Love” is done al dente.

While I wouldn’t say a theme is at work on Phantasmagoria, a Poe-tic coupling takes place on “Sanctum Sanctorum” and “Is It A Dream.” Vanian’s vocals are a little precious, like Ian McCulloch, but sung with a rich clarity. (It occurs to me sometimes that musical critics are no more than frustrated, would-be sommeliers.) My favorite track on here is “Grimly Fiendish,” which is pure English pop drawn from the music hall rather than the hall of the dead. Yes, it’s very silly, produced by Bob Sergeant and the band with more than a little Madness in their method.

Ultimately, Phantasmagoria is a very well produced record that fits stylistically somewhere between Echo & The Bunnymen and The Stranglers. It’s a damned better sight than most American new wave bands, but a little more cuddly than an album called Phantasmagoria by a band called The Damned has a right to be.

Original LP Version

A1. Street of Dreams (Rat Scabies/Dave Vanian/Roman Jugg/Bryn Merrick) (5:36)
A2. Shadow of Love (Dave Vanian/Rat Scabies/Roman Jugg/Bryn Merrick) (3:49)
A3. There’ll Come A Day (Roman Jugg/Bryn Merrick/Rat Scabies/Dave Vanian) (4:13)
A4. Sanctum Sanctorum (Dave Vanian/Roman Jugg/Bryn Merrick/Rat Scabies) (6:22)
B1. Is It A Dream (Rat Scabies/Roman Jugg/Dave Vanian/Bryn Merrick/Captain Sensible) (3:27)
B2. Grimly Fiendish (Roman Jugg/Dave Vanian/Bryn Merrick/Rat Scabies/Doctor) (3:47)
B3. Edward The Bear (Roman Jugg/Rat Scabies/Bryn Merrick/Dave Vanian) (3:34)
B4. The Eighth Day (Rat Scabies/Roman Jugg/Dave Vanian/Bryn Merrick)
B5. Trojans (Bryn Merrick/Roman Jugg/Rat Scabies/Dave Vanian) (4:47)

CD reissue bonus tracks
10. Grimly Fiendish (Bad Trip Mix) (5:11)
11. Shadow of Love (6:42)

Bonus blue vinyl 12-inch single
A1. Eloise
B1. Beat Girl
B2. Temptation

The Players

Roman Jugg, Bryn Merrick, Rat Scabies, Dave Vanian with Gary Barnacle (saxes and brass), Luis Jardim (percussion), Steve Nieve (keyboard inspiration on A4), Andy Richards (additional keyboards), Paul Shepley (additional keyboards). Produced by Jon Kelly except B2 by Bob Sergeant and The Damned; engineered by Jon Kelly, additional engineering by Chris Ludwinsky.

The Pictures

Photography by Bob Carlos Clarke. Calligraphy by Booce. The model on the cover is Susie Bick, who would marry Nick Cave in 1999.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, white vinyl elpee, elpee picture disc and cassette in July 1985 in the UK (MCA, MCF/MCFW/MCFP/MCFC 3275), the US (MCA, MCA/MCAC 39039), Brazil (MCA, 27046) and Germany (MCA, 252 337-1) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #11 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-released on expanded elpee and cassette in 1986 in the UK (MCA, MCG/MCGC 3275) with bonus three-track 12-inch single or cassette single.
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc in the UK (MCA, MCD 01887) with 2 bonus tracks.
  3. Re-released on expanded, 24-bit remastered compact disc on June 27, 2007 in Japan (Geffen, UICY-93255) with 2 bonus tracks.

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