Coming out of left field through a peaceful intro of chirping birds is classic British punk band The Damned, with a fresh and refreshing EP! Out since October 16, 2020, The Rockfield Files delivers a satisfying one-two-three-four (count ‘em!) tracks of spooky, no-nonsense rock & roll.
This effort takes inspiration from the band’s 1980-1981 sessions at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Located in an unassuming barn out in the countryside, Rockfield is the birthplace of such legendary albums as Queen’s A Night at the Opera, Rush’s Hemispheres, Oasis’ (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory and many more. The Damned’s sessions there in the early 80’s produced The Black Album, Strawberries and the Friday 13th EP.
The Rockfield Files is so named because that’s where the band went in 2019 to record this EP, thus giving it big shoes to fill! It does so admirably well, all things considered. The first thing that jumps to the ears is impeccable guitar and bass tone, which gracefully rides the boundary between percussive, aggressive power and ethereal fuzz. Bassist Paul Gray really drives this album with his energetic overdriven sound, especially on the first three tracks. On top of this, guitarist Captain Sensible and keyboardist Monty Oxymoron lay an unfancy but effective performance, alternating between bluesy and spooky moods. The spooky aspect is well complemented by Dave Vanian’s deep, throaty wail.
The first three tracks, “Keep ’em Alive,” “Manipulator,” and “The Spider & The Fly” are all-around great songs. Parts of the musical structure here are like a simpler, more straightforward version of Queensrÿche’s Operation: mindcrime. Meanwhile, the standout closing number “Black Is The Night” borrows the musical DNA of Morrissey’s megahit “You Have Killed Me.” When all is said and done, it’s 18 minutes of sweet music that will leave your neck sore and your brain wanting more! This one’s definitely worth a listen in this dark season…
Written by Henri Brillon
*Edited by Dominic Abate