Punk Rock, like Rock n Roll, is one of those phrases we glibly toss about without having a clue what it means, and in 2023, we aren’t saving the Queen, whether tourists are money or not. Instead we are being asked to pledge allegiance this weekend, to an adulterer, who doesn’t talk to one of his sons, with an alleged paedo for a brother who’s dead mother paid some woman he’d never met £12m quid so he didn’t have to go to court. You can’t shock anymore when this is the ruling class.

But if punk rock doesn’t exist anymore, not really, and The S*n Is more outraged about refugees than music, then it still burns strong in it’s wanton disregard elsewhere.

I mean, how else do you explain, other than calling it punk rock, that a couple of weeks ago, two whole weeks before it came out, The Damned turned up in Birmingham and played almost all of “Darkadelic”. Don’t want new stuff, tough!

The only one of them that they didn’t play that night was the last one, “Roderick”. And that one is in its own way, indicative of the album. It is ambitious, almost operatic (it chants Latin at one point) and it’s the sound of The Damned doing what they want in 2023.

That’s the feeling everywhere you look on “Darkadelic”. “The Invisible Man” (dropped second song that night) is brilliant, but it’s disconcerting. It doesn’t follow conventional structures, it doesn’t do what it should. The metaphors write themselves.

“Bad Weather Girl” is essentially a vehicle for Captain Sensible and Monty Oxymoron. The latter’s keyboard isn’t far from The Doors, while in “You’re Gonna Realise” Dave Vanian sings “the past is just the past” over something vaguely 80s sounding. Is he possibly singing about the band and looking to the future?

“Beware Of The Clown” – dedicated on stage to Boris Johnson – is one of the highlights. Screeching and sneering, and all with a point.

This is at heart a rock record, although the Tex Mex flavoured “Western Promise” is an example of the way they push the boundaries here, and the brass at the end is superb.

Vanian in particular seems to be enjoying himself here, “Wake The Dead” has a similar vibe to the recent Hugh Cornwell record, but the vocals make it special. Likewise, the words aren’t clichéd. “Follow Me” for example – probably the best of an excellent bunch – excoriates “influencers” with laser guided precision.

There’s an energy here. “Motorcycle Man” brims with it, thanks largely to new drummer, Will Taylor, and they clearly rate “Girl, I’ll Stop At Nothing” seeing as it was played it as an encore.

“Leader Of The Gang” is about what (or who) you think it is. Full of melody, it laments the fact “these days it doesn’t seem so fun, thanks to the awful things you’ve done”. Quite.

Sensible is excellent throughout. His playing adds tone all the way through this, and if they wouldn’t (or more accurately, couldn’t) have done ‘From Your Lips” in 1976, then it’s worth reiterating that those times have gone.

And that’s the point. Last year, they came out as some kind of nostalgia act playing the early stuff. It was great (although Sensible pointedly apologised for the show the other week) but you suspect this more represents them in 2023.

“Darkedelic” is many things, but in this context, it’s a brilliantly brave reaction. And like this record, follow no rules. Be no ones faithful subject.

Rating 9/10

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