The Damned

Best of the Damned: Total Damnation

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Perhaps it would have been better to have titled this 20-track "Some of the Best of the Damned." For the band really did have a long career -- even if you only count their British chart records, those appeared on a half-dozen different labels. Best of the Damned: Total Damnation concentrates almost wholly on the Stiff sides from the very beginning of their career, and some early-'80s cuts, wholly ignoring their stops at both Chiswick Records (in the late '70s and early '80s) and MCA (for which they scored the bulk of their chart singles in the mid- to late '80s). Still, many -- particularly the punkiest of Damned fans -- would argue, with some justification, that the group's Stiff stuff is their most significant, both in terms of the Damned's career and punk music as a whole. And this CD does lead off with eight tracks from their Stiff singles, including not just the legendary A-sides that were among the first punk releases ever ("New Rose" and "Neat Neat Neat"), but also some B-sides that have never been too well exposed, like their cover of the Beatles' "Help!" and the 57-second "Stab Your Back." The early-'80s material that takes up the bulk of the rest of the disc isn't as feral, but is pretty listenable new wave-tinged punk nonetheless, including the instrumental "Billy Bad Breaks" (which sounds a little like a vocal-less, more garage Elvis Costello & the Attractions) and "Generals," which has a pop-friendly anthemic thrust. Note, however, that the versions of "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," "Love Song," and "Smash It Up" that close the CD are not the original studio ones from 1979 Chiswick singles, but live performances from a June 1988 concert.

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