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One of the greatest albums ever committed to vinyl,
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This review is from: Machine Gun Etiquette [25th Anniversary Edition] (Audio CD)
Machine Gun Etiquette was my introduction to this extraordinary band and what an introduction it was. I'd heard dribs and drabs throughout my lifetime but never a full album. I cannot over-emphasize enough just how much this album blew my balls off. For weeks and weeks I shuffled around like a junked up maniac, headphones enbedded into my eardrums, with this album as my drug.
It opens up with a very subtle "Ladies and gentlement, how do?" and then it's straight into the proto-hardcore punk of "Love Song". This really sets the tone but don't get too comfortable as no more than two minutes in it's onto the Stooges-esque "Machine Gun Etiquette", heavier, faster and somehow shorter than it's bigger brother. Depression never sounded more joyous next in the 60's tinged "I Just Can't Be Happy Today", a nice u-turn from the opening two tracks underlined with a brilliant over the top organ solo.
This album reminds me of being out on the town with a coked-up buddy, constantly tripping over themselves to get the next sentence out. You're only starting to get into the brilliance of "Melody Lee" before it stops, there's a cry of BOLLOX! and you're thrown into another punky classic "Anti-pope". This one should be noted for it's cleverly crafted double tracked bass-breakdown mid-section, culminating in one almighty payoff.
The fairground dementia of "These Hands" provides a breather of sorts next, and by god you're gonna need it as it's one hell of a ride to the finish line from here on out. The highest point of the album so far comes with the sauring "Plan 9 Channel 7", the albums first real classic and one which really hits the sky at it's most intense. Special mention must go out to the lyrics on the next one "Noise Noise Noise", an obvious dig at your everyday punk man who's daily routine involves beating up his parents and kicking dogs.
The only real low point(if you even could call it that) is on the inspired but flawed cover of MC5's "Looking At You". I say this because they use the exact same formula as "Anti-pope" whereas they break down a song and build it back up. It doesn't work here because as it's done so well in the first place it feels redundant, still not a bad song by any means. Normal service is resumed next with "Liar" which includes a cracking bass-line and one of my favorite lines ever, "I'll smoke your last cigarette and say someone else did".
Every song on this album is so catchy and performed with such a high level of intensity that it's easy to forget to stand back and enjoy the musicianship. Captain Sensible had just hung up his bass and stepped up to the role of guitarist and piano/keyboard player after Brian James' untimely departure, and what a sublime job he does. Same can be said for Rat Scabies, the showy drummer who seems to put in a fill every two seconds. Sounds excessive but it suits this album down to the ground.
If the whole album up to this point has been a pleasurable listen (and it certainly was for me) then what's served up next will be the icing on the cake. Although the title of the albums closer reads crudely "Smash It Up Parts 1&2", crude is a million miles away from what they accomplish here. Remember this is 1979 and The Damned are billed as a "punk band", there were a lot of purists around who probably didn't take kindly to the songs structure, "You can't have an instrumental, you're in a punk band!" Part 1 is a gorgeous fusion of guitar and bass with sends you drifing along for a blissful two minutes before part 2 takes over and carries you triumphantly to the end.
I firmly believe this to be one of the greatest albums ever made. I'd hesitate to call it a great "punk" album because there's so much variation on offer, as is the same with The Clash's brilliant "London Calling". It barely takes it's foot off the accelerator and there's not a bad song to be heard, you know the score.