The Damned

Not the Captain's Birthday Party?

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Titular claims aside, that is in fact precisely what this late-'77 show is documenting via a concert at London's Roundhouse. Featuring the original classic lineup running through Damned Damned Damned-era songs, and a smattering of new ones, Not the Captain's Birthday Party? is short but good smash-and-bash fun, capturing a time when punk was still an honest feeling of the age and not something to wear or refer back to. While the studio recordings the group did best show their considerable abilities at making fiery, kicking rock and roll, this entertaining record still blasts through enough performance and energy. The recording itself is fairly flat, but still is remarkably clear (aside from a number of mic feedback squeaks), making it a much better document of the era than many of the similar live releases from the same time. The tensions that would eventually cause the first collapse of the group aren't in immediate evidence here. James is still the ruler of the musical roost, his guitar playing as rampaging as ever, while the rest of the band backs him up with the expected elán, if a bit ragged around the edges. Vanian himself is, as always, a wickedly charismatic frontman, with the rest of the band throwing in extra vocals or comments as appropriate (or not). Three of the first four songs later turned up on the not-quite-as-successful Music for Pleasure album, but the versions here have a reasonable enough fire to them, including "Creep (You Can't Fool Me)," and the goofy "Problem Child." Otherwise, it's first-album classics all the way -- while "Neat Neat Neat" is inexplicably absent, the ever-wonderful "New Rose" gets a deserved airing, as does the revamp of the Stooges' "1970," "I Feel Alright," and other great numbers like "I Fall," and the delicious "Born to Kill."

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