For me first contact with the Damned came vis their hit single Grimly Fiendish, which instantly appealed to me as it bore more than a passing resemblance to Madness, my favourite band of my childhood. From there things only got better with Is It A Dream and Eloise and then Alone Again Or. I never bought anything by the Damned though I probably recorded some of the hits onto tape from the Radio 1 Top 40 countdown, but that would have been all.
Years later, when punk had ascended to its sparkly throne and been rather indulgently mythologised way beyond decency, I was to hear the earlier incarnation of the Damned, and whilst it was pleasant enough I wasn't leaping around in paroxysms of delight. But this was apparently the cool stuff, and Phantasmagoria/Anything-era Damned was most certainly not cool, and self-respecting music lovers were obliged to pooh-pooh it in accordance with protocol. Well, I wasn't having any of that, and I went hunting for the "uncool" Damned albums regardless, but to no avail for a long time. When finally somebody with a bit of mettle got around to spiffying them up and re-issuing them in 2009, I was delighted, and here I am with a two-disc delux edition of Anything.
Alone Again Or is as great as I remember it, and an example - as with the 7" version of Eloise (not collected here) - of a cover-version that can stand proud next to the original. The album weaves a meandering path through musical styles, always with a Hammer House Gothic charm. I am glad that the Damned had the ambition and drive to burst out of the straight-jacket-wearing punk scene, and go off inventing the likes of The Portrait - an elegant piano-based moody instrumental that must have had some punk-purists retching - or embracing Victorian melodrama or all manner of other ideas. Highlights of Anything, for me, are Alone Again Or, The Portrait and the epic In Dulce Decorum. There are also a couple of numbers that sound like filler, whilst The Girl Goes Down exudes atmosphere but really needed a decent lyric to match the tune. Anything, the song, meanwhile, as they hinted in the booklet, would have been a better song without the female backing singers.
Onto the extras, firstly I think it would have been better to group Temptation, Beat Girl, The Year Of The Jackal (which is a great track and a highlight of the extras) and Thanks For The Night on disc one, so that there were no repeats of album tracks on the main platter. The 12" and 10" versions of the singles in general are only of value as curios and don't add much to the originals. Whoever was doing the mixes had a tendency to break up and muddle up the lyrics, as on the two Eloise mixes (which, though a couple of minutes different in length, are strangely more or less identical to each other in their layout), which makes them a little frustrating, though I like the general notion of re-imagining the song as a dramatic pocket symphony. Alone Again Or is also treated to an ambitious make-over, but once again it loses some of the impact of the original version. The 12" of In Dulce Decorum is good, and it is also nice to have the 7" edit of Gigolo.
The Damned had grand aspirations which when fulfilled made for some mighty music. Anything is never dull, and I hope that the band don't allow the thought police to strip them of any pride they should have in this album.