The Damned

Strawberries

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Recuperating a bit from The Black Album's uneven impact while still aiming to try whatever they want in studio, here the same four members, along with soon-to-be regular Roman Jugg on various keyboard parts, come up with their strongest album since Machine Gun Etiquette. By turns sprightly and cheerful, dark and dramatic, energetic and snarling, or all that and more at once, Strawberries defies usual expectations to be yet another good rock album from the band, resisting easy attempts to categorize it. Older punk fans would likely appreciate the album's initial blast of "Ignite," a driving thrasher with a fine chorus and some hilarious vamping in the end from Vanian. Immediately following is the superior "Generals," which beautifully combines piano and a crisp arrangement with Vanian's powerfully smooth mode. From there, it's almost a case of strength-to-strength as the album continues: the brass-driven "Stranger on the Town," sassy and sharp; the giddy keyboards and crunch of "Dozen Girls"; the gentler psych-pop experiments of "Gun Fury" and "The Pleasure and the Pain"; the Reagan-baiting "Bad Time for Bonzo"; and the bright beauty of "Under the Floor Again," at once mysterious and gorgeous with a particularly winning instrumental break merging some of Vanian's most positive lyrics. Captain Sensible gets two fun moments for himself in the ruminative "Life Goes On" and the album-closing fun goof, "Don't Bother Me." Meanwhile, at the album's center is the darkest, most haunting thing the band ever recorded, "The Dog." It's an astonishingly effective chiller based on the character of Claudia from Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. Cleopatra's welcome 1993 re-release added five bonus tracks, including the Captain's brief piano piece "Torture Me," which tackles the same subject as the Smiths' "Meat Is Murder" but with arguably less hectoring and more affecting results. The 2005 Deluxe Edition includes three more extra cuts, including "Mine's a Large One Landlord," "Rat vs the Omni" and "I Think I'm Wonderful."]

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