The Damned Be Damned!

The Damned
with Trike Wipeout and the Black Market Babies
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
Tuesday, March 3, 1998

Review by Michael O'Donahue

The Black Market Babies -- Vancouver's very own trash-glam answer to Sha Na Na -- opened things up tonight with their trademarked blend of campy attitude and rock star buffoonery. After years of stumblebum antics and Menudo-inspired personnel changes, the Babies haven't changed much (aside from new matching haircuts every few years) -- Richy Babie and the Other Three Guys are still setting singer Billy Emptypants up for punchline after punchline, and they're still the funniest parody act in town.

Featuring Rollins-like riffs and a DJ, Trike Wipeout were next up and really struggled to get themselves across, hampered as they were by murky, weak sound and relative audience indifference. Trike Wipeout's singer, Elliot, used to be in Malachi Crunch, a more old-school punk outfit where his vocals and personality were a perfect fit. In Trike Wipeout, the match is a little more awkward: the heavy arenariffs and aggro nature of the new band require a more testosterone heavy delivery, which doesn't seem well-suited to Elliot's natural talents. But, they were game and so was much of the crowd -- surprisingly, given the 80's Goth vibe floating around the room. With a little more fine tuning and a little less self-consciousness, Trike Wipeout will be perfectly capable of delivering the goods.

Unlike the Damned.

Myself, I remember the Damned as seminal 70's English Punk Pioneers. Many others, however, remember them as kings of 80's Goth/New Wave. The Damned themselves seem confused about it, too.

There was definitely more 80's in them, tonight, with the ssspooooky organ-like keyboards, metal cheese-food guitar and quiffed hair. Even a classic like "Neat Neat Neat" got swallowed up in a tidal wave of cheeseola, with former bass player, now Guitar God, Captain Sensible's weedly-weedly-weedly leads and Dave Vanian's grand entrance amid washes of ssspoooky keyboards. (Speaking of Sensible, he had possibly the worst guitar sound I have ever heard: washed out, indistinct fuzzy buzzing somewhere way behind the vocals and Metal Queen keyboards. What the hell was he thinking?)

The Damned dragged out the hits, one after the other, in an attempt, I figure, to stem the tide of patrons heading for the exit. "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," "Eloise," all swamped by Sensible's bad guitar and by Vanian's charisma-free antics and over-amped moaning.

I was looking forward to this show, but ended up looking away a lot in embarrassment as one classic after another crashed and burned, and as Captain Sensible made his unbelievably inane between-song comments about such topical issues as the Spice Girls, Snoop Doggy Dogg and -- of course -- the Queen. And, oh yes, the lemon wedge up the arsehole was very, very... punk.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on March 14, 1998

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