Looking back 40 years now, October 1982’s Strawberries remains the most unique, unusual album in The Damned’s 46-year discography, a stone-cold psych-punk-pop/call-it-what-you-want classic, often overlooked or undervalued in its singularity. Yet this fifth LP culmination was The Damned's most successful blend of their original 1976 punk energy with their moodier 1979-1984 post-punk progressions—including the pioneering goth they’d perfected on 1980’s darker, more shadowy fourth album, The Black Album. Best of all, it most fully incorporated their multitude of ’60s influences, from classic Nuggets-type garage rock to psychedelia to baroque and orchestral pop to mod/soul!
Somehow, it also retains their former freak-flying spontaneity and juvenile abandon and wild streaks, encompassing Rat Scabies’ typically explosive, post-Keith Moon drumming, guitarist Captain Sensible’s unfettered lead runs, Dave Vanian’s coolest crooning, and Paul Gray’s anchoring, nimble-quick, bass, plus keyboard flourishes from incoming member Roman Jugg. Perhaps that’s the biggest reason Strawberries has held up so well for four decades: it’s such a refreshing long, strange trip to all the disparate places such a mélange of influences conjures, aided and abetted, crucially, by all four members’ outstanding melodic songwriting chops.
In other words, Strawberries has it all, with a variety of flavors to delight every established fan of The Damned. Plus its diversity makes Strawberries the perfect entry point for those who haven't yet embraced The Damned's charms. Think the Damned are just punk rockers? Think again.
Yet Strawberries has remained under-discovered. Whereas it feels like every other original U.K. punk band was allowed to evolve and grow from the early blam-blam-blam, like The Jam of The Gift or The Clash of Sandinista and Combat Rock, The Damned were supposed to “Smash it Up” year after year or they’d be slagged. Likewise, no matter how sophisticated and multifaceted their music became, a significant chunk of the critical cognoscenti were always going to view them as unserious clowns.
And no one knew it better than The Damned. They decided to call the album Strawberries as a shorthand for an expression they had, that when the album was released, it would be “like giving strawberries to pigs.” Fortunately, there was a flipside to this coin: the group had garnered a contrasting large and loyal, more enlightened cult following at home and abroad, that did embrace the band’s maturation, and thrilled to their more nuanced work.
In celebration of Strawberries'40th Anniversary, Iconoclassic Records presents a 2 CD edition including a 15 song bonus disc compiling the contemporaneous singles and b-sides, plus explosive live versions recorded just weeks after the album's initial release, all remastered by 6-time GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Mark Wilder. The album has NEVER sounded better! The 20-page booklet includes liner notes by The Big Takeover editor and publisher Jack Rabid, who draws upon his own 40 year history with Strawberries as both fan and journalist.
The Damned - Strawberries (40th Anniversary 2 CD Edition) is OUT NOW.